Global smartphone market to remain stable in 2020

Smartphones will again account for almost half of consumer spending in the area of technical consumer goods in 2020 and are expected to generate total sales of 444 billion euros. Demand for smartphones will remain stable in 2020, following a two percent decline in unit sales last year.


GfK experts estimate that around 1.37 billion smartphones will be sold worldwide in 2020. However, this demand could be slowed by effects of the corona virus on global supply chains and production capacities. These are GfK's findings on the global market for smartphones.

"In recent years, it has become increasingly difficult to impress consumers with innovations - especially in the smartphone market. Beyond its original function, the smartphone has long since become the most important item for many consumers. As a result, the expectations placed on hardware and performance are also rising - and premium as well as performance are now standard" explains Luca Giuriato, GfK expert for telecommunications. "Nevertheless, consumers continue to eagerly await the launch of new models. GfK research shows that four out of five smartphones purchased last year were also launched in the fourth quarter of 2019. So for 2020, one strategy for retailers and manufacturers may be to wow consumers with the right value for money."


Features provide added value and added value improves user experiences

Innovations have dominated the smartphone market over the past few years. Freely following the motto "the more, the better," new features offer consumers better user experiences. Around 70 percent of smartphones sold in 2019 had a display size of at least six inches. In 2018, the share was still 24 percent. According to recent GfK research, the majority of consumers worldwide say that internal storage capacity is the most important criterion when choosing a smartphone. The sales figures also show this: in 2019, 37 percent of all smartphones sold had a storage capacity of at least 128 GB.

Battery life is also important - half of all consumers pay attention to it when buying a new smartphone. Around 38 percent of all smartphones sold in 2019 had a battery capacity of at least 4,000 mAh. Speed and battery life are especially important to consumers who use the smartphone for gaming (44 percent of consumers). All of these features provide consumers with a better user experience, which is appreciated and now expected.


Status Quo 5G

5G is one of the biggest technological advances that comes with the issues of performance and user experience. In 2019, more than ten brands already offered 5G-enabled smartphones in their product range. However, 5G penetration is highly dependent on local telecom infrastructure. In South Korea, for example, one-third of all smartphones sold in the fourth quarter of 2019 were 5G-enabled. In the UK and Australia, by contrast, the proportion was two percent each. China, the largest smartphone market, is catching up rapidly in terms of 5G. Already eight percent of all smartphones sold in December 2019 were 5G-enabled models.


Convenience and simplification as further growth drivers

Consumers are on the lookout every day for ways to simplify their lives and improve their well-being. This trend is also reflected in the popularity of wearables: 28 percent more wearables were purchased in 2019 than in the previous year. At the same time, sales of wearables grew by more than 40 percent, driven primarily by smartwatches and sports watches. As consumers become increasingly concerned about their health, functions such as measuring blood pressure and blood oxygen are gaining in importance.

Consumers also increasingly want to watch and listen to videos and music on the go. They can no longer imagine their smartphone without these functions. True wireless (in-ear) headphones are therefore particularly popular. In 2019, they recorded triple-digit growth. Almost every second headset purchased last year was a true wireless (in-ear) device. This share doubled compared to 2018. Last year, about 30 brands accounted for 80 percent of all devices sold worldwide.

About the study

The global trend analysis presented here is based on various GfK methods such as point of sales tracking as well as consumer research in the market for Technical Consumer Goods in 2019. All sales figures in euros are calculated on the basis of a fixed exchange rate.

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