5G will help smartphone sales recover in late 2019

(Image credit; Samsung)

Sales of 5G smartphones will fail to ignite the market in 2019, according to new figures from IDC, but there will be a recovery in the second half of this year.

Analysts predict shipments will fall by 1.9 per cent in 2019 – the third consecutive year of contraction – as saturation takes hold in developed markets and churn slows in some developing nations.

However, there is some good news on the horizon. Although shipments are expected to be down 5.5 per cent for the first half of 2019, sales will grow 1.4 per cent in the final six months of the year.

Smartphone shipments

This is of course partly attributed to sales of 5G devices, but these will only account for 0.5 per cent of the market in 2019. Other contributors to this growth are the availability lower-priced premium devices and ongoing opportunities in markets like India.

But the influence of 5G will increase over time. By 2023, compatible handsets will be worth 23.6 per cent of the market.

"Amidst all these design and 5G developments, the challenge remains that consumer demands around smartphone functionality continue to expand while their tolerance for higher-priced products continues to drop, saod IDCs’ Sangeetika Srivastava.

"With 5G on the horizon as well as some interesting new form factors, it will be critical for vendors to continue to bring affordable products to market to reinvigorate the market's growth."

In terms of split, Android’s market share will increase from 85.1 per cent to 86.7 per cent in 2019, shipping 1.2 billion units. Meanwhile, the number of iOS devices shipped will fall by 12.1 per cent to 183.5 million.

However, analysts note that the ongoing trade dispute between the US and China could be a huge factor in the prosperity of the market. Huawei’s access to US components and software has already been limited.

"Even without the growing trade tensions between the U.S. and China, the smartphone market has some important challenges that need to be resolved before we see growth again," said IDC’s Ryan Reith. "However, the light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter, and growth seems within reach.”

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.