The global smartphone market continues its decline as consumers hold onto their devices longer than ever before and new research from the the International Data Corporation (IDC) has revealed that 375.4m smartphones were shipped to customers during Q4 2018.
These figures are down by 4.9 percent when compared to the same period in 2017 and this is now the fifth consecutive quarter of decline making 2018 the worst year ever for smartphone shipments. Only 1.4bn units were shipped throughout last year as global shipments dipped by 4.1 percent.
The Chinese smartphone market experienced the worst slump, reporting a decline in shipment volume by 10 percent. China accounts for 30 percent of the world's smartphone consumption and while other markets declined in the past, the country was previously able to avoid falling victim to market saturation.
Samsung retained its place as the top smartphone vendor by volume and the South Korean electronics manufacturer ended the holiday quarter with 70.4m total shipments marking a 5.5 percent decline from the same period last year when it shipped 74.5m devices. Apple also saw the volume of its iPhone shipments fall by 11.5 percent as customers failed to justify the high price of its latest models (opens in new tab).
The program vice president of IDC's Worldwide Mobile Device Trackers team, Ryan Reith put the smartphone market's decline into context, saying:
“Globally the smartphone market is a mess right now. Outside of a handful of high-growth markets like India, Indonesia, Korea, and Vietnam, we did not see a lot of positive activity in 2018. We believe several factors are at play here, including lengthening replacement cycles, increasing penetration levels in many large markets, political and economic uncertainty, and growing consumer frustration around continuously rising price points.”
While Apple and Samsung's sales declined, China's top four smartphone brands, Huawei, Oppo, Vivo and Xiaomi, were able to grow their market share by 78 percent. Huawei's shipment volume was up 43.9 percent year-over-year, Oppo saw full-year growth of 1.3 percent and Xiaomi increased its shipments for 2018 by 32.3 percent.
Declining smartphone sales will likely lead device manufacturers to experiment with new designs and the rollout of 5G in 2020 will certainly help boost sales as consumers upgrade their devices for improved network speeds.