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Coronavirus: smartphone sales plummet

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a dramatic impact on the smartphone market, with shipments showing their biggest ever fall in February.

According to the latest research from Strategy Analytics, global smartphone shipments in February 2020 were down 38% year-on-year to 61.8 million units, from 99.2 million in February 2019.

Smartphone demand in Asia collapsed due to the outbreak of coronavirus, said Linda Sui, director at Strategy Analytics.

“Some Asian factories were unable to manufacture smartphones, while many consumers were unable or unwilling to visit retail stores and buy new devices,” she said.

February was set to be a big month for the phone industry, with a number of new models launched at the annual Mobile World Congress. In the end, however, the event became one of the first major conventions to be cancelled due to coronavirus.

Smartphone shipments were expected to remain weak throughout March 2020, despite tentative signs of recovery in China, as coronavirus has now spread to Europe and North America where hundreds of millions of potential customers are in lockdown.

“The smartphone industry will have to work harder than ever to lift sales in the coming weeks, such as online flash sales or generous discounts on bundling with hot products like smartwatches,” said Yiwen Wu, senior analyst at Strategy Analytics.

A separate report from tech market advisory firm ABI Research suggests that the pandemic will lead to smartphone production falling by as much as 30% in the first half of 2020.

There will also be a knock-on effect on 5G devices, delaying the development and introduction of affordable 5G phones, said David McQueen, 5G devices research director at ABI Research.

In the longer term, the outbreak is expected to gradually come under control by end of the second quarter of 2020 but consumer confidence may not bounce back immediately so it may take some time for phone sales to recover.

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