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2021 smartphone growth to reach highest level since 2015

The surge in smartphone demands prompted the International Data Corp. (IDC) to raise its near-term outlook for the global smartphone market forecasting shipments of 1.38 billion units this year an increase of 7.7% over 2020.

According to the IDC Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, this trend is expected to continue into 2022, when year-over-year growth will be 3.8%. IDC said this may be because of the continued deployment of 5G technology in several countries. 5G-ready enabled devices are gaining traction with emerging markets posting a strong demand for mid-range and low-end 4G phones.

Looking toward the later years in the forecast, IDC expects low single-digit growth to continue through 2025 with a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.7%. The global semiconductor shortage is still a concern but IDC said “the impact has been far less than in other markets like automotive, PC, and various consumer tech categories.”

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“Smartphones are seeing competition for consumer spending from adjacent markets like PCs, tablets, TVs, and smart home devices, yet that hasn’t slowed the market’s path to recovery,” said Ryan Reith, program vice president with IDC’s Worldwide Mobile Device Trackers. “The smartphone market returned to growth during the holiday quarter last year and since then we’ve only seen production from top suppliers ramp up. There continues to be a strong supply-side push toward 5G, and price points continue to drop as a result. IDC expects average selling prices (ASPs) for 5G Android devices to drop 12% year over year in 2021 to $456 and then below $400 in 2022. Apple will continue to feel price pressure.”

5G technology

With 5G shipments expected to grow nearly 130% in 2021, almost all regions outside of China will see triple-digit growth by the end of this year. However, in terms of market share, China will lead the way with a nearly 50% share of 5G shipments in 2021 while the US will follow with a 16% share. Other significant markets such as Western Europe and Asia/Pacific (excluding China and Japan) will combine for a 23.1% share of the worldwide 5G market by the end of 2021.

“Although the 7.7% growth will feel like an impressive market turnaround, we must keep in mind that we are rebounding from one of the most challenging years on record,” said Anthony Scarsella, research manager with IDC’s Worldwide Mobile Device Trackers. “2021 will represent the largest year-over-year growth the market has witnessed since 2015, as the shift towards 5G across all price tiers continues to accelerate. The 5G shift will also deliver peak smartphone ASPs in 2021 ($376, up 9.7% year over year) when compared to the remainder of the forecast period as costly 5G devices continue to replace LTE devices, which are also starting to drop in price, down 27% in 2021.”