Smartphone Sales See Record Decline Due To Pandemic

The smartphone industry saw its worst-ever sales decline in the first quarter of 2020, with sales to end users dropping by 20.2 percent year-on-year due to the coronavirus lockdown.

Shelter-in-place orders combined with economic uncertainty led consumers to stop spending on nonessential goods during the period, with manufacturers also affected by supply chain disruption, Gartner said.

Huawei was the worst hit by the crisis amongst the top five vendors, with sales falling 27.3 percent or 42.5 million units.

Even with its first decline in smartphone sales, however, Huawei maintained its No. 2 position after Samsung.

Sales drop

Senior Gartner analyst Anshul Gupta said the year looked “challenging” for Huawei, which must also deal with ongoing supply chain and operating platform constraints brought on by US sanctions.

Samsung maintained its No. 1 spot amidst a 22.7 percent year-on-year decline in sales, with 18.5 percent market share, but Gupta said the fall “could have been much worse”.

Gupta pointed out that Samsung has a limited presence in China and that its manufacturing facilities are mostly located outside the country.

Apple was affected by supply chain issues and store closures, but saw a decline of only 8.2 percent, or 41 million units, far less than other top manufacturers, due in part to “strong momentum” behind its product line.

Online channel focus

“Apple’s ability to serve clients via its online stores and its production returning to near normal levels at the end of March helped recover some of the early positive momentum,” said Gartner research vice president Annette Zimmermann.

Oppo’s sales fell 19.1 percent in the quarter, due in part to the lockdown hampering its strong offline distribution system.

Xiaomi, by contrast, actually saw a slight increase in sales due to its aggressive online channel focus and strong sales of its Redmi devices to international markets.

Xiaomi stood at No. 4, with 9.3 percent of the worldwide market, followed by Oppo with 8 percent.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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