This year's global smartphone market decline can only be slowed down by cheap 5G models

This year's global smartphone market decline can only be slowed down by cheap 5G models
It's no longer a big secret that the coronavirus pandemic has hit both individual smartphone manufacturers like Samsung and Huawei and the mobile industry as a whole particularly hard from more than one standpoint. 

But while most major factories around the globe are up and running again, the supply chain is no longer broken, and many brick and mortar stores have reopened even in some of the world's worst-hit areas and cities, one lingering COVID-19 challenge for the smartphone market and other previously thriving businesses is undoubtedly the pandemic's "macroeconomic impact."

In layman's terms, that essentially means people are less likely to splash out on fancy new gadgets and other non-essential goods nowadays than they were, say, this time last year and especially at the beginning of this year. Keep in mind that industry pundits and market research firms were predicting a long overdue surge in global smartphone sales for 2020 back then, but instead of that happening, Q1 numbers fell off a cliff.

Looking ahead, things shouldn't be quite as bad in the next few quarters, but the International Data Corporation (IDC) still expects shipments to record a massive 18.2 percent decline in the first half of the year compared to the same period of 2019. Overall, around 1.2 billion smartphones are now expected to be sold worldwide in 2020, down 11.9 percent from last year's global tally.

Those are obviously horrible numbers compared to similar forecasts put together before governments started taking the corona-threat seriously, but believe it or not, the IDC's new projections are actually considerably more optimistic than recent reports from Digitimes or Gartner.

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IDC analysts anticipate a Q1 2021 rebound driven primarily by 5G technology and particularly budget-friendly 5G smartphones, which are now expected to be "even more aggressively priced" than what was predicted prior to the pandemic. 

Naturally, the companies that will best "position their portfolios to capitalize on this change" are likely to win big in terms of market share while slimming down their already shrinking profit margins. It's impossible to anticipate which brands could win this heated battle, but for the time being, Xiaomi, Samsung, Nokia, and even TCL seem well-positioned for success.

Geographically speaking, you might be surprised to hear smartphone shipments in China are only expected to see a "single digit decline in 2020", highlighting the nation's incredibly speedy recovery after being by far the world's hardest-hit region at first. In contrast, Europe is likely to register a double-digit decline in sales this year compared to 2019, although that's actually not expected to change the region's status quo as far as vendor charts are concerned.

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