For smartphones, 2018 was 1st sign of decline

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For smartphones, 2018 was 1st sign of decline

Global smartphone sales are declining for the first time in smartphone history.

According to global market research company Strategy Analytics (SA) Sunday, 2018 was the first year in which the device’s sales slumped since Apple launched the world’s first smartphone in 2007.

Last year, some 1.44 billion smartphones were sold globally, a 4.6 percent or 70 million unit drop from 2017, when 1.508 billion were sold.

Sales of smartphones by Samsung Electronics totaled 294.6 million in 2018, 7 percent or 22 million units fewer than 2017’s 317.5 million. This was the first year since 2013 that Samsung’s smartphone sales fell below 300 million units.

Apple’s sales fell from 215.8 million in 2017 to just 209.6 million last year, a 2.8 percent decrease.

Huawei ended 2018 with a company record, however, with global sales surpassing 200 million for the first time. It sold 200.7 million smartphones in 2018, nearly 50 million or 31 percent more than in 2017.

Other Chinese makers also did well. Combined sales of China’s three major phone makers - Xiaomi, Huawei and Oppo - totaled 446.1 million phones, 25 percent more than a year earlier and a third of global sales last year.

SA estimated that global industry leader Samsung will sell around the same number of phones this year as last year, with Huawei selling 230 million in 2019, a 14 percent increase.

It predicted that Apple will sell fewer than Huawei at around 200 million - representing a 4.5 percent drop - and surrender its current title as the world’s second-largest smartphone maker by the end of the year.

Over-saturated markets, rising prices and overly similar features are commonly cited factors used to explain global decline in the industry.

In the past, major innovations differentiated newer models from old. Internet speeds grew exponentially faster from 3G to LTE-A, forcing customers to upgrade their phones, while screen sizes expanded from a mere three inches to six.

The general consensus is that smartphones have reached a limit in terms of innovation. Recent competition has been over which company can maximize screen surface and put the most number of cameras on a device, but even those efforts are not succeeding in spurring sales.

“Consumers have experienced various smartphones in the past decade or so,” said a spokesman from a smartphone company. “But as smartphones over the past two to three years weren’t new or attractive enough to whet consumers’ appetite, consumers have been replacing their smartphones less frequently.”

Ultra-fast 5G networks and foldable phones may be factors that spur more sales. There’s still some way to go until manufacturers can reach mass commercialization of foldable phones and offer breakthrough 5G media services, however.

“Though companies talk about new technologies like augmented reality and virtual reality, it is dubious whether consumers will purchase 5G phones if they come with a steep price tag and not enough content,” said a spokesman of a mobile carrier.

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