Asia will lead the way in 5G phone adoption

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The smartphone will remain the dominant consumer device for the foreseeable future, a new GSMA report has claimed, but 5G devices will be more popular in Asia than elsewhere in the short term.

Mobile phone manufacturers hope that innovative new form factors such as foldables and demand for 5G-compatible handsets will help drive growth in a contracting smartphone market. However, such enthusiasm should be tempered for the time being according to the research.

The GSMA found that only 30-40 per cent of consumers in Europe, the US and Australia plan to upgrade to a 5G device in the near future. This contrast with China, where nearly 50 per cent plan to upgrade as soon as possible.

5G smartphone adoption

In total, 13.5 million 5G handsets are believed to have been sold in 2019, increasing to 253 million this year. China, the world’s largest market, is expected to contribute significantly.

“The device ecosystem will be critical in shaping the trajectory of 5G adoption,” said Peter Jarich, Head of GSMA Intelligence. “However, it’s a mistake to believe that consumers in every market will look at 5G upgrades in the same way. Operators and device manufacturers will need to understand consumer demand on a granular level if they hope to make the most of the 5G opportunity.”

The publication coincides with the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) where all manner of consumer devices are on show – many of which can connect to 5G networks. The GSMA says fragmentation within smart home devices has affected adoption but that the rise of smart speakers as a link between these disparate platforms has helped.

The smart speaker category, which includes the Amazon Echo and Google Nest ranges, is the fastest growing market segment with ownership now standing at 21 per cent. Fitness tracker adoption stands at 21 per cent, while smartwatch ownership is 10 per cent.

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.