Growing 5G demand will drive major 2021 smartphone market recovery

Growing 5G demand will drive major 2021 smartphone market recovery
The global smartphone market was only one of the major industries to suffer a big and largely unexpected decline in 2020 as a direct consequence of the coronavirus pandemic, but while the COVID-19 threat is projected to linger this year and potentially even beyond that, 2021 should mark the beginning of a beautiful rebound.

The first signs of an imminent recovery showed up during last year's third calendar quarter, when shipments were down around the world by a measly four percent compared to the same period of 2019, becoming evident in the final three months of 2020, as the year-on-year sales decline further contracted to one percent according to Counterpoint Research. In contrast, the same market intelligence firm estimated the mobile industry's Q1 and Q2 slumps at 13 and a record 26 percent respectively.

Clearly, there's no way to go but up now that people are slowly regaining their appetite for both mid-range and high-end handsets pretty much in all key regions, and according to a hot new report published by Gartner, worldwide sales could register a healthy total increase of 11 percent in 2021.

While that's unlikely to be enough to boost the market to its pre-pandemic levels, this year's forecasted 1.53 billion units would come incredibly close to the 1.54 billion smartphones sold in 2019. The aforementioned 11 percent growth is expected to be mainly driven by "mature" markets across Western Europe, Asia Pacific, and Latin America on a regional level, as well as rising demand for 5G-enabled devices essentially everywhere.

Affordable 5G models starting as low as $200 could be particularly successful in 2021, especially in emerging European and Asian countries. Overall, 5G smartphones are likely to exceed 500 million unit sales, accounting for around 35 percent of the entire market. In comparison, 2019 saw less than 20 million 5G-capable handsets reach the hands of their owners, with said number growing to more than 200 million last year.

Unfortunately, Gartner's latest report doesn't go into any detail regarding the prospective evolution of the world's top mobile device vendors this year, so it's not entirely clear yet who will drive the 11 percent global hike from that perspective.

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