Global device shipments to drop 14% in 2020 as coronavirus crisis hits budgets

The smartphone industry will be the worst-hit, with shipments declining 13.7% to 1.3 billion units

The desk-based PC market will shrink as consumers will prefer latest laptops and tablets, says Gartner. Getty 
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Global shipments of devices, including smartphones, personal computers and tablets, are forecast to drop 13.6 per cent this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new report by Gartner.

Overall, about 1.9 billion devices will be sold this year, almost 300 million less than last year, the US consultancy said. The smartphone industry will be the worst affected, with shipments declining 13.7 per cent year-on-year to 1.3 billion units in 2020.

While people have increased their use of smartphones to communicate with colleagues, work partners, friends and families during coronavirus-related lockdowns, “reduced disposable income will result in fewer consumers upgrading their phones”, said Ranjit Atwal, senior research director at Gartner.

As a result, the average lifespan of a phone is set to extend to 2.7 years in 2020, up from 2.5 years in 2018, according to Gartner.

Industry experts said the wider availability of affordable 5G phones was meant to cut the replacement period, but this is no longer the case.

“The delayed delivery of some 5G flagship phones is an ongoing issue,” said Annette Zimmermann, research vice-president at Gartner.

“Moreover, the lack of geographical coverage along with the increasing cost of the 5G phone contract will impact the choice of a 5G phone,” she added.

5G-enabled phones are forecast to represent only 11 per cent of total mobile phone shipments this year.

Gartner said spending on 5G phones will be affected in most regions apart from China, where continued investment in 5G infrastructure is providing manufacturers with a more effective sales pitch.

Samsung, Huawei, LG and OnePlus are among the manufacturers that have already achieved some success through 5G phone sales.

Chinese manufacturer Huawei sold 6.9 million 5G phones last year, 200,000 more than South Korea's Samsung.  Apple, a manufacturer of premium iPhones, is expected to introduce cheaper 5G phones in September to attract budget consumers.

The PC market is predicted to shrink 10.5 per cent this year, with 235 million units being sold. This is likely to decline further in the next few years as consumers switch to a preference for laptops and tablets, Gartner said.

The work-from-home trend combined with businesses needing to create more flexible business continuity plans will also lead to more  laptops replacing desk-based PCs throughout 2021 and 2022, said Mr Atwal.

Gartner said 48 per cent of employees are likely to work remotely for at least for some of their time after the Covid-19 pandemic, compared to 30 per cent before the outbreak.