Chip shortage helps push smartphone shipments down by a third in China

A pile of smartphones from different brands on a black desk
(Image credit: Shutterstock / Tereza Hanoldova)

The number of smartphones shipped in China fell by almost a third last month in further evidence that the ongoing global chip shortage is having an impact on the mobile industry.

According to figures published by the government-backed China Academy of Information and Communications (CAICT), shipments fell by 31.8% year-on-year from 21.3 million to 14.5 million during February.

The total is less than half the 32.4 million shipped during February 2019 – a year before the Covid-19 pandemic caused a significant drop in shipments.

China smartphone sales

Global sales slumped by 12.5% during 2020 as retailers closed their doors and consumers delayed purchases, however, the reopening of marketplaces and the availability of 5G handsets at more price points contributed to growth over the past 12 months, particularly in the first half of the year.

However, shortages and supply chain disruptions limited the recovery in the second half of 2021.

As Covid-19 spread across the world, manufacturing facilities were either closed or disrupted while lower demand for consumer electronics meant lower order volumes from vendors. As lockdown measures eased and consumer activity increased, it has been difficult for supply chains to catch up.

Accordingly, manufacturers have struggled to get their hands on components such as radio frequency units, power management circuits, and other chips, affecting supply of finished products.

It is thought this shortage is affecting low-range and mid-tier handsets rather then the premium segment of the market, which could help explain the dramatic drop in China where there is fierce competition between manufacturers of affordable but feature packed devices.  

According to Gartner’s latest figures, Apple and Samsung increased shipments and market share during the final quarter of 2021, while Xiaomi recorded growth of 3.2% and Oppo and Vivo reported declines.

Predictions of when the shortages will come to an end vary, with some suggesting challenges will persist until at least later this year.  

Via Reuters

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.