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Gartner: 5G launch fails to stem decline of smartphone sales

Consumers see no reason to upgrade their current high-end 4G devices. But next year, 5G's greater security and faster speeds may reverse this trend

According to the latest mobile device market share figures from Gartner, the sale of mobile phones is no longer on an upwards trajectory.

Gartner estimates there are more than five billion mobile phones used around the world, but following years of growth, the worldwide smartphone market has reached a tipping point. Sale of smartphones will decline by 3.2% in 2019, which would be the worst decline the category has seen, Gartner stated.

Ranjit Atwal, senior research director at Gartner, said that the quality and technology features of iOS and Android-based smartphones have improved significantly and have reached a level today where users see high value in their device beyond a two-year time frame. In effect, consumers have reached a threshold for new technology and applications.

“Unless the devices provide significant new utility, efficiency or experiences, users do not necessarily want to upgrade their phones,” said Atwal.

5G comms service providers

While 5G is available in a number of markets, Atwal said that less than half of communications service providers (CSPs) globally will have launched a commercial 5G network in the next five years.

Gartner forecast that the share of 5G-capable phones will increase from 10% in 2020 to 56% by 2023. Atwal said mobile providers are starting to emphasise 5G performance features, such as faster speeds, improved network availability and enhanced security.

“As soon as providers better align their early performance claims for 5G with concrete plans, we expect to see 5G phones account for more than half of phone sales in 2023,” he added.

This should drive growth in the smartphone market, according to Gartner. It forecast that, thanks to the adoption of 5G through 2020, the smartphone market could grow at 2.9%.

Atwal said that 5G technology could be incorporated into premium ultramobile devices in 2020 to make them more marketable to customers.

But Gartner forecast that there will be 10 million fewer consumer PCs by 2023. The analyst firm reported that worldwide PC shipments totalled 63 million units and grew 1.5% in the second quarter of 2019.

However, due to unclear external economic issues, Gartner estimated that a total of 256 million PCs will ship in 2019, a 1.5% decline from 2018.

According to Gartner’s forecast, the consumer PC market will decline by 9.8% in 2019, reducing its share of the total market to less than 40%. After organisations migrate from Windows 7 to Windows 10, Gartner estimated that demand for business PCs will decline by 3.9%.

“The consumer PC market requires high-value products that can meet specific consumer tasks, such as gaming,” said Atwal.

“Likewise, PC suppliers are having to cope with uncertainty from potential tariffs and Brexit disruptions. Ultimately, they need to change their business models to one based on annual service income, rather than the peaks and troughs of capital spending.”

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