5G smartphones will remain a rare sight this year, growing to dominance by 2023
It's no secret that the global smartphone market is in bad need of a major growth driver after several years of stagnation at both the industry innovation level and in terms of actual sales numbers. It's also no secret that mobile device vendors and market analysts were counting on two big breakthroughs to put the industry on the right track to healthy growth by the end of 2019.
Unfortunately, foldable designs are still facing production challenges, while 5G technology is sluggishly expanding in major markets like the US. But researchers remain optimistic regarding the adoption of the new cellular connectivity standard, as Canalys expects shipments of 5G-enabled handsets to overtake those of their 4G-limited counterparts at some point in 2023.
The start will be slow, of course, with only 13 million 5G-capable smartphones forecasted to ship around the world this year, accounting for 0.9 percent of the market. That number actually feels pretty high right now based on the early totals of the LG V50 ThinQ and Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, but obviously, there are many 5G devices left to be released in 2019, from a couple of different Galaxy Note 10 models to "value flagships" made by Samsung and Nokia.
If Canalys is correct, 5G smartphones could jump from a market share of less than one percent straight to an 11.8 percent slice of the pie in 2020, then more than 27 percentage points the next year, 39.5 in 2022, and finally, a dominant 51.4 percent share of worldwide sales in 2023. That would equate to almost 800 million units, up from under 600 million in 2022 and a little over 160 million in 2020, of which the "Greater China" region is unsurprisingly expected to grab the largest portion of shipments.
That's because Chinese smartphone vendors and telecommunications equipment suppliers are at the forefront of the 5G revolution, moving a lot faster than their American rivals on all fronts. The local government is also playing a crucial role in setting and speeding up next-gen network deployment, with all of these factors expected to contribute to no less than 62.7 percent of handsets shipped in China in 2023 supporting 5G technology. Specifically, 263 million units, compared to "only" 145 mil in North America.