Global smartphone sales grew five percent to hit $522 billion in 2018
The Telecommunication sector comprising of smartphones, feature phones and wearables claimed a 44 percent share, and remains the powerhouse in the $1.2 trillion technical consumer goods (TCG) market. Global smartphone sales remained strong in 2018 as the premium trend continues to fuel growth, growing sales value by five percent in spite of small shrinkage in market size by three percent to hit 1.44 billion units. Smartphones represent the majority of the total spend of the global TCG market last year. This is expected to grow plus one percent in 2019.
These findings are released to coincide with Mobile World Congress 2019 in Barcelona.
APAC – the key driver of global smartphone market
The biggest consumers for smartphones hail from APAC, who bought over 732 million units of the device last year. In line with the global sales trend, APAC’s smartphone market similarly registered slight decline in demand while overall consumer spend increased by five percent. Within APAC, China accounted for 60 percent of the region’s total market value and 54 percent market volume—making it the largest contributing country to the global smartphone market.
“The Chinese market consumes the majority of the global smartphone production, as well as being the home of local brands that are becoming increasingly global,” observed Alexander Dehmel, Regional Senior Market Insights Manager at GfK. “Some 40 percent of the Chinese brands’ smartphone production in 2018 was purchased outside of China, that is up from 31 percent in 2016.”
Trailing as the second biggest APAC market, India bucked the global demand downtrend, reporting growth in both sales volume and value in 2018, by 19 and 21 percent respectively. More than 161 million smartphones worth over $28.5 billion were sold last year.
“In Asia’s emerging markets such as India, a country where feature phone sales still exceeds half of the total handset market, smartphone market’s rapid growth is fueled by the high adoption rate of first-time smartphone users, in addition to the fast replacement cycle and upgrading of existing smartphone users,” said Dehmel.
Premium models and Chinese brands fuel growth
Globally, around twelve percent (up from nine percent in 2017) of smartphones sold were priced at more than $800 in 2018. The $150-400 segment continues to be an important competitive battleground accounting for 46 percent of smartphones sold globally in 2018 (up two percent from 44 percent in 2017).
Within Asia, developed markets drove the take up of high-end smartphones. Last year, every other device (53%) sold in these countries cost more than $800. On the other hand, the most affordable phones priced below $150 accounted for half the total market in emerging Asia.
“Chinese brands have been significantly increasing their presence worldwide, and specifically in emerging Asian markets, their popularity have been largely driven by their affordability and faster model refresh cycles with improved specs,” commented Dehmel. “Take the region’s third largest smartphone market of Indonesia for instance; Chinese brands accounted for more than 2 in every 5 (42%) smartphones sold in the country in 2018.”
Looking ahead in 2019
GfK’s Consumer Life Study shows that consumer trends are changing when it comes to possessions. Not only do they “prefer to own fewer but higher quality items” that they will pay premium prices for, but they also “value experiences more than possessions”. If larger memory or screen size and multiple high megapixel camera can enhance their overall usage experience, such innovations will likely help ignite consumers’ imagination and stimulate greater demand.
With rapidly evolving technology, the later part of 2018 saw new launches in the market which offered consumers features such as larger screen sizes, higher resolutions for both, the front and back cameras, along with increased number of camera lens, and more advanced AI functionalities.
One of the key observations for 2018 was the continued popularity of larger screen sized smartphones—a trend which was consistently reflected across every single APAC market. China and Korea were the top two markets where almost 9 in 10 smartphones sold had 5.5 inch or bigger screen sizes.
“From the trends that emerged in the second half of 2018, we anticipate the growth of larger display smartphones with high screen-to-body ratios (i.e. slim bezels) to continue developing into 2019, as well as rising demand for models with stronger camera offerings in both resolutions (megapixels) and number of lens, powered by more advanced AI capable chipsets,” concluded Dehmel.
This release is based on final GfK Point of Sales data for December 2018. GfK forecasts the end-demand consumer purchases rather than manufacturer shipments. Market sizes are built up by point-of-sale (POS) tracking in 75+ markets with updates on a weekly and monthly basis. For the US, GfK employs proprietary market modeling and consumer research rather than POS to produce its market forecasts. Values are based on unsubsidized retail pricing. Technology consumer goods includes Telecom, Major and small domestic appliances, IT and consumer electronics GfK POS panels.