Good times ahead for the smartphone market?

The covid-19 pandemic undoubtedly impacted global smartphone sales in 2020. From supply chain issues and component shortages to consumer spending money on other tech categories, it's been a challenge for a lot of smartphone makers. However, there were early signs in Q4 2020 that the market was improving. The outlook for 2021 and beyond also appears to be a lot brighter.

IDC's recent findings showed that worldwide smartphone vendors shipped a total of 374 million units during the fourth quarter of 2020 (2020 Q4), resulting in a growth of 1.1% YoY when compared to the 369.9 million units shipped in the fourth quarter of 2019.

According to the latest findings from market research firm Strategy Analytics, global wholesale smartphone revenues will increase by 13% YoY in 2021.

Linda Sui, Senior Director at Strategy Analytics, added: “We expect global smartphone sales volume will grow + 7% YoY at 1.4 billion units, and global smartphone wholesale average selling price (ASP) will grow +6% to US$294 in 2021, resulting in smartphone wholesale revenue exceeding US$400 billion. We expect the ultra-premium segment (US$600 wholesale and above) to perform particularly well due to iPhone 12’s super cycle, and to contribute to almost half of the overall wholesale revenues this year.”

Strategy Analytics's report points to 54% of smartphone revenues coming largely from demand driven by China, US, India & Japan. Cisco’s latest “Visual Networking Index (VNI)” report indicates that India may have 800 million smartphone users by 2022 whilst the latest techARC India Smartphone Trends Report anticipates the market to return to pre-covid growth levels by 2022 with shipments reaching 167 million units.

5G enabled smartphones are also expected to be in demand. Emerging trends indicate that consumer appreciation for the potential of 5G is driving sales. March shipments of 5G phones in China reached a high of 27.5 million units, according to data from the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology (CAICT). India's 5G smartphone sales are expected to grow and represent 19% of total smartphone sales volumes in 2021 (Strategy Analytics).

Mobile & cloud gaming picks up steam

Newzoo's latest Global Cloud Gaming Report shows that cloud gaming will generate $1.4 billion this year. So it's no wonder that there's a number of high profile publishers moving to create mobile friendly versions of some popular titles. Rocket League will soon launch a mobile version of their hit game, Nintendo has agreed a partnership with Pokemon Go creator Niantic to develop more AR games plus Sony is hiring a Head of Mobile to develop some of their most popular titles for mobile.

Premium games demand higher spec phones to deliver a solid gaming performance (even casual gamers want to avoid the dreaded lag) and there are more gaming smartphones scheduled to hit the market from brands such as Asus, Lenovo and Redmi. Last month, the Black Shark 4 Series from Xiaomi launched in China and reached 200 million yuan ($30 million) in just 5 minutes. The Black Shark 4 is scheduled for release in the UK on April 28th with prices starting at £429.

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