The market researchers at IDC predict that smartphone unit sales will grow 7.4 percent overall in 2021 to about 1.37 billion units.
“The smartphone market was better prepared from a supply chain perspective heading into 2020 given almost all regions were expecting to grow and vendors were preparing accordingly,” IDC vice president Ryan Reith says. “2020 was a bust due to the pandemic but all of the top brands continued forward with their production plans with the main difference that the timeline was pushed out. Therefore, we are at a point where inventory levels are much healthier than PCs and some other adjacent markets and we are seeing the resilience of consumer demand in recent quarterly results.”
According to IDC’s numbers—remember, I average figures from IDC and Gartner when I report smartphone, tablet, and PC marketshare—hardware makers shipped 1.29 billion smartphones in 2020, a year in which the COVID-19 pandemic played a major and negative role. In 2019, hardware makers shipped 1.372 million units, so the 2021 number is flat with the pre-COVID market. I see that as good news.
IDC says that iPhone growth will hit 13.8 percent, over double the 6.2 percent growth we’ll see in Android devices. But that makes sense: The iPhone only accounted for 16 percent of the market at the start of 2021, and it’s much harder to grow when you’re as dominant as is Android.
IDC also tackles 5G growth, which is interesting. The firm expects sales of 5G handsets to overtake those of 4G/LTE handsets by 2022, and it will then dominate the market moving forward, with 4G/LTE sliding further down each year. This year, IDC expects China to account for over 47 percent of all 5G phone sales, compared to just 16 percent in the United States.
And IDC expects sales of premium smartphones to continue to outpace the growth of the rest of the industry too.
“Despite the ongoing issues surrounding the pandemic and the Delta variant, consumers are continuing to upgrade to more premium smartphones this year,” IDC’s Anthony Scarsella says. “Premium smartphones (priced at $1000+) continued to grow in the second quarter as the segment displayed 116 percent growth from last year. Moreover, [average selling prices] across the entire market climbed 9 percent as buyer preferences trend towards more costly 5G models than entry-level devices.”