IDC: Global Smartphone Shipments +7.4% in 2021, led by Emerging Markets

IDC forecasts that global smartphone shipments are set to increase by 7.4% this year, marking a return to growth after the Covid-19 pandemic hit the industry in 2020, according to new analyst figures. IDC estimates worldwide smartphone shipments at 1.37 billion units in 2021, which represents “minimal growth” compared with pre-pandemic 2019. Its data for 2019 shows shipments of 1.372 billion, then a 5.9% decline to 1.29 billion the following year. Making comparisons with 2019 (pre-COVID) gives a more accurate picture of the state of the market.

The 7.4% growth can be attributed to a healthy 13.8% growth from iOS devices combined with 6.2% growth from Android. Although COVID-19 drastically impacted 2020 shipments, 2021 shipments have managed to display minimal growth compared to 2019 (pre-pandemic) volumes, giving us a more accurate view of the state of the market. The world’s largest markets – China, the United States, and Western Europe – will still be down from 2019, but growing markets such as India, Japan, the Middle East, and Africa are fueling the recovery.

“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,” said Ryan Reith, group vice president with IDC’s Mobility and Consumer Device Trackers. “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.”

5G shipments continue to be a primary driver of 2021 growth as both vendors and channels focus on 5G devices that carry a significantly higher average selling price (ASP) than older 4G devices. The ASP of a 5G smartphone will reach $634 in 2021, which is flat from $632 in 2020. However, 4G devices continue to witness a massive price decline as the ASP drops to $206, representing a nearly 30% decline from last year ($277). As a result, the total 5G shipment volume will grow to 570 million units, up 123.4% from last year.

China will continue to lead the smartphone market with 47.1% of the 5G global market share, followed by the USA at 16%, India at 6.1%, and Japan at 4.1%. By the end of 2022, 5G units are expected to make up more than half of all smartphone shipments with a 54.1% share.

“Despite the ongoing issues surrounding the pandemic and the Delta variant, consumers are continuing to upgrade to more premium smartphones this year,” said Anthony Scarsella, research director, Mobile Phones at IDC. “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.”

Closing Comment:  We don’t share IDC’s enthusiastic forecast for 5G smartphones, because they do not support any new features, applications or use cases without a 5G SA core network.  As 95% of deployed 5G networks are NSA (requiring a 4G anchor/core network), 5G smartphones that use 5G NSA networks are only a little faster [1.] than 4G-LTE phones with no noticeable improvement in latency. Also, there’s no roaming, so users must fall back to 4G-LTE when outside of their 5G carrier serving area.  Mobile subscribers will soon realize that and stop buying 5G smartphones.

Note 1.  PC magazine has tested smartphones on 5G networks from AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon. Their report Fastest Mobile Networks 2021 found that T-Mobile’s new mid-band 5G network is the only U.S. nationwide 5G that’s markedly faster than 4G


About IDC Trackers

IDC Tracker products provide accurate and timely market size, vendor share, and forecasts for hundreds of technology markets from more than 100 countries around the globe. Using proprietary tools and research processes, IDC’s Trackers are updated on a semiannual, quarterly, and monthly basis. Tracker results are delivered to clients in user-friendly Excel deliverables and on-line query tools.

For more information about IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, please contact Kathy Nagamine at 650-350-6423 or [email protected].


2 thoughts on “IDC: Global Smartphone Shipments +7.4% in 2021, led by Emerging Markets

  1. Revenue from 5G smartphone sales is expected to increase by 210 percent over the next four years as per a study from Juniper Research. The market research firm predicts that 5G smartphones will account for over 50 percent of sales revenue by 2025.

    5G smartphone sales revenue for 2021 is expected to reach $108 billion and increase to $337 billion in 2025.

    Newly-introduced ‘right-to-repair’ laws – designed to help tackle environmental waste and make it cheaper for customers to keep their existing devices – are expected to limit revenue over the long-term.

    Research author Adam Wears commented:

    “The effect of these laws will not be felt initially, as consumers adopt 5G smartphones to leverage the high speeds and reduced latency of 5G networks.

    Hardware vendors must use this opportunity to build out new device capabilities to encourage consumers to continue regularly upgrading and avoid churn to competitors.“

    The report expects global Android smartphone prices will be 65 percent lower than iOS counterparts by 2025. This lower cost of Android devices will likely lead to Android 5G smartphone sales dominating in regions like Latin America.

    In contrast, the research predicts the popularity of iOS devices in developed markets will continue and 40 percent of global 5G smartphone revenue attributable to North America and Europe by 2025.


  2. Smartphone shipments fell to a 10-year low in 2022:

    According to Canalys, last year, global shipments were 11% lower compared to 2021, dipping below 1.2 billion. In Q4, shipments were down 17% year-on-year.

    “Smartphone vendors have struggled in a difficult macroeconomic environment throughout 2022,” said Runar Bjørhovde, Canalys research analyst, who highlighted that it marks the worst Q4 and annual performance in a decade. Retailers in Q4 were “highly cautious” about taking on new inventory, a contributing factor to the low shipment volume, he added.

    The preliminary figures, published on Tuesday, claim Apple took top spot from Samsung at the end of 2022; the iPhone maker achieved a market share of 25 percent in Q4, compared to its rival’s 20%. In Q3, it was Samsung enjoying the lead with a market share of 22 percent to Apple’s 18%.

    Unfortunately for OEMs, the outlook this year for the smartphone market isn’t much better, with Canalys predicting flat to marginal growth.

    “Though inflationary pressures will gradually ease, the effects of interest rate hikes, economic slowdowns and an increasingly struggling labour market will limit the market’s potential,” warned Canalys research analyst Le Xuan Chiew.

    “This will adversely affect saturated, mid-to-high-end-dominated markets, such as Western Europe and North America,” he continued. “While China’s re-opening will improve domestic consumer and business confidence, government stimuli are only likely to show effects in six to nine months and demand in China will remain challenging in the short term. Still, some regions are likely to grow in the second half of 2023, with Southeast Asia in particular expected to see some economic recovery and a resurgence of tourism in China helping to drive business activities.”

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