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Smartphone sales 'better than expected' in Q3

The pandemic may have stopped many people from visiting their local retailer, but new figures show that smartphone sales rebounded in the July-September quarter.

IDC’s latest Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker reveals that 353.6 million smartphones were shipped during the third quarter of 2020.

That’s a decline of 1.3% compared with the same period last year — a big improvement when set against the second quarter’s 17% year-on-year decline.

The Q3 results were stronger than IDC’s previous forecast of a 9% decline, which the research firm attributed to the re-opening of economies around the globe as Covid-19 restrictions were gradually relaxed.

Performance was strongest in emerging markets, with India, Brazil, Indonesia and Russia all seeing strong volumes thanks to pent-up demand and strong promotional activity.

Sales were slower in larger, more developed markets like China, Western Europe and North America, although this was partly due to the month delay in the launch of Apple’s iPhone 12.

Sales in these markets are predicted to accelerate with the continued rollout of 5G and the growing number of products and promotions linked to the next-generation technology.

“While some of the topline numbers may not seem pretty, we are seeing a lot of improvement in the smartphone market both in terms of supply chains and consumer demand,” commented Ryan Reith, programme vice president with IDC’s Worldwide Mobile Device Trackers.

“In the large developed markets, it is very clear that 5G will be positioned to most consumers as their next phone regardless of which brand or price point they are focused on. Marketing has ramped up significantly.

Products are widely available. Promotions are happening. And it’s clear that the top sales initiative in these markets is to push 5G.”

A previous analysis by IDC showed that economic uncertainties this year are putting downward pressure on smartphone prices, with almost three in four (73%) phones shipped in 2020 expected to be priced below $400 (£300).

Worldwide smartphone value is predicted to decline by 7.9% to $422.4bn (£317.4bn), from $458.5bn (£344.6bn) in 2019.

This downward trend is intensified by consumers opting for devices priced in the low-to-mid range as they prioritise spending on essentials, IDC said.

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