Q4 2017 brought the first ever decline in smartphone sales according to Gartner
Ever since Gartner, the market analyst company, started tracking smartphone sales in 2004, there has been a year-on-year increase in sales every quarter. This trend ended during the fourth quarter of 2017 when Gartner recorded a 5.6 percent decline compared to the same quarter during 2016, with sales of roughly 408 million units versus 432 million units globally. However, we would be remiss if we didn’t point out that on a yearly basis, the 1.537 billion units shipped in 2017 was 2.7 percent ahead of the 1.496 billion units shipped in 2016.
Anshul Gupta, research director at Gartner, identified two key reasons for this decrease. They were a lack of good ‘ultra-low-cost’ smartphones to entice feature phone owners to switch, and a larger portion of those who are replacing their phones deciding to buy a ‘quality’ phone and keep it for longer.
For the first point, we will assume that Gupta is referring to the US$50-100 range occupied by entry-level models from Doogee and BLU, because once you move above US$100 some attractive options such as the Moto G5, Moto E4, and the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4X start appearing. His second point about consumers keeping their smartphones for longer is a solid point. A flagship SoC is no longer a must-have if you want a smooth experience — the reign of the mid-range heavyweights reinforces this point —so a three-year-old flagship SoC is still plenty of power for most smartphone tasks. Most phones now come with enough RAM to keep them relevant for a few years, and for general smartphone photography the cameras on higher-end models still hold up well a few years later.
Huawei (Honor) and Xiaomi were the only two ‘top 5’ manufacturers to see an increase in the number of quarterly shipments year-on-year. Meanwhile, the reduction in sales for Samsung, Apple, and Oppo didn't show any major movement in their respective market shares due to the industry-wide decrease.