Smartphone sales plummet amid coronavirus outbreak

(Image credit: Future)

Global smartphone sales have dropped significantly as the ongoing outbreak of coronavirus has a major impact on consumer demand.

Just 61.8 million devices were sold in February 2020, down from 99.2 million last year. This 38 per cent decline is the biggest fall off in smartphone market history.

Covid-19 has had a major impact on the industry, with manufacturing and supply chains disrupted as countries place restrictions on businesses and individuals. February’s Mobile World Congress (MWC) was cancelled as a result of the crisis.

Coronavirus impact

“Smartphone demand collapsed in Asia last month, due to the Covid-19 outbreak, and this dragged down shipments across the world,” said Linda Sui, Director at Strategy Analytics. “Some Asian factories were unable to manufacture smartphones, while many consumers were unable or unwilling to visit retail stores and buy new devices.”

Although the situation is improving in China and other parts of Asia – factories are returning to maximum output levels and retailers are reopening – the spread of the virus to Europe and North America has resulted in lockdowns and business closures.

This will mean the market is unlikely to rebound in the near future.

“Despite tentative signs of recovery in China, we expect global smartphone shipments overall to remain weak throughout March 2020,” added Yiwen Wu, Senior Analyst at Strategy Analytics.

“The coronavirus scare has spread to Europe, North America and elsewhere, and hundreds of millions of affluent consumers are in lockdown, unable or unwilling to shop for new devices. The smartphone industry will have to work harder than ever to lift sales in the coming weeks, such as online flash sales or generous discounts on bundling with hot products like smartwatches.”

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.