Smartphone shipments will grow thanks to 5G, but not for long

Smartphone shipments will grow thanks to 5G, but not for long
It's no big secret that the smartphone market has gone through an extended rough patch in the last few years, but as repeatedly predicted in 2019 by multiple research firms, global shipments should get a healthy boost in 2020 largely thanks to the advent of 5G.

While the world's first 5G-enabled handsets came out last year, scarce availability, high prices, and perhaps most importantly, slow network rollouts made it essentially impossible for their sales numbers to count for much in the grand scheme of things. Of course, Gartner's top analysts expect the status quo to be gradually altered, as the overall market share of 5G smartphones could rise from 12 percent in 2020 to as much as 43 percent "by 2022", and finally, more than 50 percent in 2023.

In other words, at least one in two smartphones shipped worldwide just three years down the line should be able to achieve those vastly improved 5G download speeds envisioned by both device manufacturers and mobile network operators. Hopefully, Verizon will manage to cover more than small portions of dense metropolitan areas with its 5G network "built right" by then, while T-Mobile may or may not close its highly publicized Sprint merger in these next few years.

Keeping the focus on the immediate future, it's definitely worth highlighting that Gartner doesn't expect global mobile phone shipments to grow by a large margin this year compared to 2019. The latest forecast calls for a modest 1.7 percent hike to 1.77 billion units, followed by a tiny decline predicted for 2021 and a bigger one in 2022, when sales could drop as low as 1.75 billion units.

Otherwise put, the overall market boost generated by the spread of 5G-capable handsets will be short-lived, but at least the sales total is not forecasted to fall as abruptly as it did in the last couple of years. When looking at phones and computers together, the situation is unsurprisingly a bit bleaker, as the PC market is expected to continue shrinking through 2022 after an unexpected progress of 0.6 percent reported for 2019 compared to 2018.

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