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Global used smartphone market set to grow 17.6% year-on-year

Questions may be asked of the longevity of steep growth in the new smartphone arena, but research finds no signs of slowing down across the used market

In research that may explain just why the leading smartphone suppliers have seen steep growth curves flatten out over the recent past, analyst IDC is forecasting a significant increase in worldwide shipments of used smartphones.

According to the analyst’s definition, a refurbished smartphone is a device that has been used and disposed of at a collection point by its owner – and that once the device has been examined and classified as suitable for refurbishment, it is sent off to a facility for reconditioning and is eventually sold via a secondary market channel. It emphasised that it did not regard a refurbished smartphone as hand-me-down or one gained as the result of a person-to-person sale or trade.

The IDC report, Worldwide used smartphone forecast, 2019–2023, calculates that worldwide shipments of used smartphones, inclusive of both officially refurbished and used smartphones, will reach a total of 206.7 million units in 2019, representing annual growth of 17.6%. The study projects that used smartphone shipments will reach 332.9 million units by 2023, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13.6% from 2018 to that year.

Looking regionally, IDC found that by 2023, North American used smartphone shipments would total 87.2 million units, accounting for just over a quarter (26.2%) of the overall used device arena. This compares with 39 million units (22.2%) in 2018. For the rest of the world, 2023 will likely see 245.7 million units, up from 136.8 million (77.8%) in 2018.

Ascertaining drivers for the phenomenon, IDS attributed the growth to an uptick in demand for used smartphones that offer considerable savings compared with new models. Moreover, and perhaps crucially for the corporate procurement arena, it adds that OEMs have struggled to produce new models that strike a balance between desirable new features and a price that is seen as reasonable.

“In contrast to the recent declines in the new smartphone market, as well as the forecast for minimal growth in new shipments over the next few years, the used market for smartphones shows no signs of slowing down across all parts of the globe,” said IDC research manager Anthony Scarsella.

“Refurbished and used devices continue to provide cost-effective alternatives to both consumers and businesses that are looking to save money when purchasing a smartphone. Moreover, the ability for suppliers to push more affordable refurbished devices in markets in which they normally would not have a presence is helping these players grow their brand as well as their ecosystem of apps, services and accessories.”

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Looking ahead, IDC expects the deployment of 5G networks and smartphones to impact the used market as smartphone owners begin to trade in their 4G smartphones for the promise of high-performing 5G devices.

IDC added that although drivers such as regulatory compliance and environmental initiatives are still positively impacting the growth in the used market, the importance of cost-saving for new devices will continue to drive growth.

It also believes that trade-in combined with the increase in financing plans will ultimately be the two main drivers of the refurbished phone market moving forward.

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