Gartner survey: Global smartphone sales plunge 20% in pandemic-hit quarter

Ruben Fields
June 3, 2020

During the first three months of 2020, the smartphone industry saw a 20 percent drop in sales, according to research firm Gartner.

The plummet in sales, which is slightly higher than the 16% drop in business smartphone sales, can be attributed to the coronavirus pandemic and its subsequent economic crisis, which has halted spending on non-essential technology such as additional smartphones.

"The coronavirus pandemic caused the global smartphone market to experience its worst decline ever", Gupta added.

Apple and most Chinese phone makers were also severely impacted by temporary shutdowns of smartphone factories in China.

Huawei was the worst hit by the crisis amongst the top five vendors, with sales falling 27.3 percent or 42.5 million units. While that number could have been bigger but because Xiaomi and its sub-brand Redmi focuses on online sales, it still managed to keep its prices low, which in turn contributed to its small growth.

Gupta pointed out that Samsung has a limited presence in China and that its manufacturing facilities are mostly located outside the country.

Despite its sales falling almost 23 per cent annually in the first quarter, Samsung maintained the number one position with 18.5 per cent global market share. Samsung's sales declined 22.7-percent in Q1 2020, YoY (Year-over-Year). Though the company has developed the Huawei Mobile Service ecosystem, it is unlikely to attract new smartphone buyers in global markets due to the absence of popular Google apps.

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Ironically, Apple's iPhone 11 was the most popular single smartphone style by far in the first quarter, with 19.5 million shipped to retailers, according to analyst firm Omdia in an earlier report.

Samsung built more inventory in the channel in preparation of new smartphone launches, but its "inefficient" online channel hampered end-user sales during the quarter, Gartner noted.

Huawei trailed Samsung with a 14.2 per cent market share and Apple retaining 13.7 per cent.

Xiaomi stood at No. 4, with 9.3 percent of the worldwide market, followed by Oppo with 8 percent. Supply constraints and store closures are attributed to its weak performance despite Apple not being as dependent on China compared to its Chinese competitors.

Xiaomi, on the other hand, was least impacted by the pandemic. Disruptions in the supply chain and rising customer spending in February put a stop to the positive slope of trend. To grow its sales and market share, it is paramount that Oppo strengthens its online channel.

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