Smartphone market expected to disappoint - again

(Image credit: Future)

Economic uncertainty, improved build quality, and an increasing appeal for sustainable living will hurt the global smartphone market, while at the same time propelling the worldwide used phone market to new heights, according to a new market forecast from analysts CSS Insight.

The company expects mobile phone shipments to hit 1.35 billion units in 2023, down 4% from last year, reaching the absolute lowest annual level for the past ten years. Of those devices, 1.16 billion will be new devices.

For Marina Koytcheva, Vice President of Forecasting at CCS Insight, this is because people are happy to keep their devices with them longer. Also, with the global economy having wild swings due to Covid-19, the Russian invasion, and the looming global recession, they’re not as keen on heavy investments in top-tier devices. 

Growing second-hand demand

But people still like mobile phones, so they’re increasingly turning towards used options.

"The market for second-hand devices is forecast to continue growing in 2023 as people seek value-for-money options in the face of a weak economy and choose pre-owned phones to support a more environmentally friendly lifestyle", commented Parul Saxena, Senior Analyst at CCS Insight. 

CSS Insights believes that this year, 330 million used devices will be sold, with a “growing proportion” coming in through organized channels.

Some new smartphones will still perform well, the researchers believe. Namely, 5G-enabled devices will show relatively strong demand, possibly reaching 700 million shipments this year. That would mean that more than one in every two phones sold will be a 5G-enabled device.

The entire market might pick up somewhat next year, the researchers concluded, but it’s highly unlikely to reach the heights of the mid 2010’s, when almost two billion new devices were sold every year. The second-hand market is growing too strong to allow it, they argue.

In fact, by 2027, the proportion of all sales going to used devices is likely to double.

"Our research shows that mobile phones remain the most loved connected device that people own. But that doesn't mean that consumers want to keep buying phones as often as before, or purchase brand-new devices. Post-pandemic consumer behavior has changed, and the industry needs to adapt to the new reality," Koytcheva concludes.

Sead Fadilpašić

Sead is a seasoned freelance journalist based in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. He writes about IT (cloud, IoT, 5G, VPN) and cybersecurity (ransomware, data breaches, laws and regulations). In his career, spanning more than a decade, he’s written for numerous media outlets, including Al Jazeera Balkans. He’s also held several modules on content writing for Represent Communications.