Telecoms

Emerging markets hold hope for smartphone shipment growth

Samsung retook first place in the overall smartphone league table in Q1 2018.
Samsung retook first place in the overall smartphone league table in Q1 2018.

Global smartphone shipments continued to weaken in the first quarter (Q1) of 2018, according to analysts.

Canalys says shipments were down 3.4%, continuing the trend from a decline of 3% in Q4 2017.

Worldwide sales of smartphones recorded their first decline since 2004, in Q4 of 2017, says Gartner. Global sales of smartphones to end-users totalled nearly 408 million units in the Q4 of 2017, a 5.6% decline, it notes.

A 21% year-on-year decline in the world's largest market, China, dragged the global market into the red, notes Canalys.

The saturating China smartphone market is forcing the smartphone players in the country to invest and expand beyond their home market, says Counterpoint Research.

The efforts have been realised as the performance of Chinese brands in Middle East and Africa (MEA), Europe as well as the rest of the Asian markets has been strong, it adds.

The ideal smartphone markets for Chinese brands are the emerging smartphone markets such as Bangladesh, Myanmar and MEA, where LTE is being launched for the first time or the network is expanding to more covered geographies, says Shobhit Srivastava, research analyst for Counterpoint Research.

The emerging markets still offer a sizeable opportunity for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to expand and grow as smartphone penetration by users is still around 45%, notes Counterpoint Research.

The waning smartphone demand is also due to a slow-down in developed markets, where replacement cycles are lengthening with overall smartphone features and design reaching its peak, notes Counterpoint Research.

"The average selling price of smartphones is increasing in emerging markets with users upgrading from entry level to the mid smartphone segment. Hence, we expect OEMs to accelerate their go to market strategy and expansion in parts of Africa and the rest of the Asia-Pacific region to capture the growing demand in 2018," says Tarun Pathak, associate director at Counterpoint Research.

"There have been no signs of recovery since the market started to decline in Q4 last year," says Rushabh Doshi, research manager at Canalys.

In highly saturated markets, such as the US, China and Western Europe, a lack of innovation has led to a lack of consumer demand, and growth will be hard to find in 2018, says Canalys. Smartphone consumers are trading up to more premium devices, but there are no longer as many new smartphone converts, resulting in shipments dropping, notes IDC.

"Despite new flagships from the likes of Samsung and Huawei, along with the first full quarter of iPhone X shipments, consumers looked unwilling to shell out big money for the latest and greatest devices on the market," says Anthony Scarsella, research manager for IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker.

On the other hand, in high-growth markets, such as India and Brazil, vendors are struggling with low margins, notes Canalys.

"It is not surprising to see top vendors growing share at the expense of smaller vendors as the market slows and survival gets tougher," says Rushabh Doshi, research manager for Canalys.

Top 10 players now capture 76% of the market, thereby leaving more than 600 brands to compete for the remaining 24% of the market, notes Counterpoint Research.

Samsung retook first place in the overall smartphone league table in Q1 2018, displacing Apple, which led in Q4 2017, while Chinese vendors Huawei, Xiaomi and Oppo maintained their respective third, fourth and fifth positions, says Canalys.

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