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Smartphone demand weak in Q3 2019

Smartphone demand weak in Q3 2019

Global sales of smartphones to end users continued to decline in the third quarter of 2019, contracting by 0.4% compared with the third quarter of 2018, according to Gartner.

Demand remained weak as consumers became more concerned about getting value for money, the international market research and analysis company stated.

Anshul Gupta, senior research director at Gartner, said: "For the majority of smartphone users, desire has shifted away from owning the least expensive smartphone. Today's smartphone user is opting for mid-tier smartphones over premium-tier ones because they offer better value for money. In addition, while waiting for 5G network coverage to increase to more countries, smartphone users are delaying their purchase decisions until 2020."

According to Gartner this shift has prompted brands such as Samsung, Huawei, Xiaomi, OPPO and Vivo to strengthen their entry-level and mid-tier portfolios. This strategy helped Huawei, Samsung and OPPO grow in the third quarter of 2019. By contrast, Apple recorded another double-digit decline in sales, year-over-year.

Table 1

Worldwide Smartphone Sales to End Users by Vendor in 3Q19 (Thousands of Units)

Vendor

3Q19

Units

3Q19 Market

Share (%)

3Q18

Units

3Q18 Market

Share (%)

Samsung

79,056.7

20.4

73,360.1

18.9

Huawei

65,822.0

17.0

52,218.4

13.4

Apple

40,833.0

10.5

45,746.6

11.8

Xiaomi

32,271.3

8.3

33,219.7

8.5

OPPO

30,834.4

8.0

30,563.4

7.9

Others

138,659.9

35.8

153,965.8

39.6

Total

387,477.2

100.0

389,074.0

100.0

Due to rounding, numbers may not add up precisely to the totals shown.

Source: Gartner (November 2019)

The research firm added that Huawei was the only one of the top-five global smartphone vendors to achieve double-digit growth in smartphone sales in the third quarter of 2019. The company sold 65.8 million smartphones, an increase of 26%, year-over-year.

Huawei's performance in China was the key driver of its global smartphone sales growth. It sold 40.5 million smartphones in China and increased its share of the country's market by almost 15 percentage points.

"While the ban on Huawei to access key US technologies is yet to be fully implemented as a three-month extension was just announced, the proposed ban brought negativity around Huawei' brand in the international market. Nevertheless, Huawei's strong ecosystem in China continued to show growth," Gartner added.

Huawei patriotism

The current situation with the US has also fostered patriotism among Huawei's partners, which are now keener to promote its smartphones in China - a development that makes it difficult for local competitors to compete aggressively against Huawei, the research company affirmed.

Huawei's long investment in sub-brands (Honor and Nova), in multichannel operations (online and retail), and in 5G and other technological innovation forms the basis of its success in China.

Samsung maintained the no. 1 position globally in the third quarter of 2019, by increasing its smartphone sales by 7.8%, year over year.

"Samsung's aggressive revamp of its portfolio, with a focus on mid-tier and entry-tier segments, strengthened its competitive position," said Gupta.

Apple's iPhone sales continued to decline in the third quarter of 2019. Apple sold 40.8 million iPhones, a year-over-year decline of 10.7%. "Although Apple continued its sales promotions and discounts in various markets, this was not enough to stimulate demand globally," Gupta added. "In the Greater China market sales of iPhones continued to improve, however, it follows a double-digit decline recorded at the beginning of the year. The iPhone 11, 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max saw good initial adoption, which suggests that sales may be positive in the remaining quarter."

Black Friday stimulates sales

Gartner believes that with Black Friday and Cyber Monday approaching, smartphone deals are likely to spur consumer demand in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Vendors, including Google and Samsung, are likely to offer aggressive price promotions not just for their older smartphones but also for new devices such as the Google Pixel 4 and Samsung Galaxy Note 10.

Competition between mobile phone manufacturers will increasingly focus on more intelligent smartphones. These devices will deliver increasingly personalised content and services that draw on users' contexts and preferences.

Roberta Cozza, senior research director at Gartner, said: "To deliver relevant personalised experiences, manufacturers will need to improve the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) in smartphones and make security capabilities and privacy key aspects of their brands."

At a time of limited technology-led innovation, product managers should focus on offering attractive features at low prices as quickly as possible. By offering better value for money, they can increase demand for smartphones.

Smart feature phone uptake in Africa

A number of companies have recently launched smart feature phones into the Africa market.

Most recently, at AfricaCom 2019, Vodacom Tanzania launched the Smart Kitochi KaiOS-powered smart feature phone.

In a statement released by the mobile network operator, the device is touted as the first smart feature phone available in the Tanzanian market and retails at TZS 48,000 (US$20).

The Smart Kitochi can connect to the internet and social media, and features Wi-Fi , GPS and 1400mAh battery, as well as a hybrid dual-SIM slot that can support two SIM cards with 4GB+ 512MB RAM memory.

The company added that KaiOS supports 3G + 4G/LTE, Wi-Fi, GPS and Hotspot and described the mobile operating system as the third largest worldwide, running on over 100 million devices shipped across Africa, Europe, Asia and Americas.

Also at AfricacCom 2019, Africell announced the launch of afriphone, its first 3G smart feature phone powered by KaiOS mobile operating system for smart feature phones.

According to a statement issued by the company, afriphone will be the first KaiOS-powered device in The Gambia and Sierra Leone, and will also be made available in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The device features 3G connectivity and access to apps including WhatsApp, the Google Assistant, Facebook, YouTube, and Google Maps, as well as unique native content such as the Africell's customer care app.

"Additionally, it includes other smartphone-level features such as Wi-Fi, GPS, NFC, and offers a hybrid dual-SIM slot that supports two SIM cards with 512MB memory + 256MB RAM. It also boasts a powerful battery which enables extended hours of talk time," Africell stated.

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