Premium and 5G handsets are leading the way; smartphone shipments are forecast to rise 7.4% in 2021


IDC expects 1.37 billion smartphones to be shipped in 2021, up 7.4%. A further rise of 3.4% is forecast for both 2022 and 2023. This year’s growth will be led by a 13.8% hike in iPhone deliveries IDC says, with Android shipments growing 6.2% in 2021. While the industry will show growth from a pandemic-scarred 2020, larger markets such as China, the U.S., and Western Europe will not reach the pre-pandemic levels tallied in 2019.

Smartphone shipments are expected to rise 7.4% this year with further 3.4% gains forecast for 2022 and 2023

This year’s growth will be headed by rapidly growing smartphone markets including India, which overall is the world’s second largest market for connected handsets. Besides India, other markets such as Japan, Africa, and the Middle East are helping to drive the growth.

5G will be a huge contributor to the increase in smartphone sales that IDC is forecasting. That’s because 5G handsets cost more than 4G phones. The average selling price (ASP) of a 5G model this year will be $634 which is flat with last year’s ASP of $632. The average selling price of 4G phones is dropping like a rock with the ASP falling nearly 30% from $277 last year to a predicted $206 this year.

IDC is calling for shipments of 5G phones to rise 123.4% in 2021 to 570 million handsets. China owns a leading 47.1% of the 5G market with the U.S. next at 16%, and India third at 6.1%. Next is the 4.1% slice of the 5G pie owned by Japan. As 5G networks get completed around the world, sales of the compatible phones grow. By the end of next year, 5G phones are expected to make up 54.1% of all smartphone shipments.

Ryan Reith, group vice president with IDC’s Mobility and Consumer Device Trackers, said, “The smartphone market was better prepared from a supply chain perspective heading into 2020 given almost all regions were expecting to grow and vendors were preparing accordingly. 2020 was a bust due to the pandemic but all of the top brands continued forward with their production plans with the main difference that the timeline was pushed out. Therefore, we are at a point where inventory levels are much healthier than PCs and some other adjacent markets and we are seeing the resilience of consumer demand in recent quarterly results.”

Premium price phones, including 5G models, saw shipments rise 116% during the second quarter.

What makes this interesting is that the price for the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 starts at $1,799.99 and $999.99 for the Galaxy Z Flip 3. In other words, these are not cheap phones and India is a developing country.

Anthony Scarsella, research director, Mobile Phones at IDC, says, “Despite the ongoing issues surrounding the pandemic and the Delta variant, consumers are continuing to upgrade to more premium smartphones this year. Premium smartphones (priced at $1000+) continued to grow in the second quarter as the segment displayed 116% growth from last year. Moreover, ASPs across the entire market climbed 9% as buyer preferences trend towards more costly 5G models than entry-level devices.”

The premium price smartphone market should soon get a boost in the third quarter with the release of the Apple iPhone 13 series which should take place within the next three weeks. And the aforementioned Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Galaxy Z Flip 3 launches should also provide a shot in the arm to premium phone shipments during the period running from July through September.



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