Global smartphone market on struggle street

Shipments continue to decline.

Following four consecutive quarters of negative growth in 2018, the global smartphone market continued to suffer in Q1 2019 with a 6.3% year-over-year decline in shipments, according to preliminary data from IHS Markit.

While Samsung Electronics maintained top ranking in volume, shipments declined 9% year-over-year in Q1 2019, but it was not the biggest story of the quarter. Instead, the headliner was China’s Huawei, which shipped 59.1 million smartphones in Q1, up 50% year-over-year, making Huawei one of just three OEMs posting growth during the past quarter, along with Vivo and Tecno.

Despite the headwinds Huawei faces from the US and other countries regarding 5G network roll-out activity, the company continues to expand in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, growing more than 60% in the region, and continues to lead in its home market, up 42% year-over-year.

After struggling in Q4 2018, Apple continued to face challenges in Q1 2019, with 43.8 million iPhones shipped, down 16% from the previous year. The company faces the underlying challenge of charging premium pricing in a maturing smartphone market and as a result, may not be able to find short-term fixes for its problems.

Market concentration continues to intensify with the top three smartphone brands grabbing a 54% market share. For many other smartphone brands, business conditions continue to be difficult, with few signs of a silver lining on the horizon, according to IHS Markit.

The roll-out of 5G handsets began in the first quarter, but they arrived too late to impact results. With only a few handsets currently available to consumers in markets where 5G networks have launched, the activity surrounding more 5G network launches will continue throughout the year. But first-generation 5G handsets are premium devices, a pricing segment already testing the limits of consumer acceptance.​

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