CCS Insight predicted mobile phone sales in 2019 will be limited to 1.8 billion units, a year-on-year drop of 3 per cent, in its latest forecast.
The woe stems from issues including lengthening replacement cycles, weakness in China’s economy, and macroeconomic and political uncertainty in other major markets. The company noted high prices for flagship devices prove unpalatable to some consumers, and users are keeping mobile phones longer and considering second-hand devices.
CCS Insight said it had expected sales to reach 2 billion units annually by 2022, but a new five-year outlook trims this to 1.9 billion until 2023.
Marina Koytcheva, VP of forecasting, said: “Yearly sales of 2 billion mobile phones seemed so close just a few years ago, but might become a distant dream for the industry.”
The company downgraded its expectations in almost every market, including India, where it expects more than 320 million phones to be sold in 2019. This is an increase of just 5 per cent year-on-year, taking into account a “disturbance in online retail in February” and a generally cautious mood ahead of an imminent general election.
In key Western European markets, some 35 per cent of consumers intend to keep their current phone longer than their previous one, and CCS Insight also said it believes similar dynamics are having an effect in the US, where sales are forecast to drop 9 per cent this year.
With regard to a potential driver for the mobile device market, the arrival of 5G, CCS Insight expects 5G phones to “get off to a slower start than previously anticipated”, before moving to an encouraging growth trajectory from 2020 and beyond.
It expects 220 million 5G phones will be sold in 2020, rising to 930 million in 2023, accounting for almost half of all mobile phone sales.