Coronavirus outbreak hurts worldwide smartphone shipments: IDC

Shipment volumes suffered its largest year over year decline in the first quarter.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

The latest data from International Data Corporation (IDC) has revealed that as the world grapples with the novel coronavirus outbreak, worldwide smartphone shipments suffered the largest year over year decline in the first quarter.

IDC quarterly mobile tracker recorded worldwide smartphone shipments dropped 11.7% year on year, with companies shipping in total 276 million smartphones during Q1.

The company noted that it is typical for the first quarter to experience a quarter over quarter decline in shipments, with the average over the last three years hovering between 15% to 20%. However, when compared to the results reported in 1Q19, which only saw smartphone shipments drop 6.6% and volumes of 312 million, it is the largest year over year decline ever, according to IDC.

"What started as primarily a supply-side problem initially limited to China has grown into a global economic crisis with the demand-side impact starting to show by the end of the quarter," said Nabila Popal, IDC worldwide mobile device trackers research director.

"While the supply chain in China started to recover at end of the quarter, as IDC expected, major economies around the world went into complete lockdown causing consumer demand to flatline."

Popal added consumers are increasingly cautious, and smartphone purchases would consequently suffer.

"This drop in demand, combined with the lockdowns and closures of retail shops across the globe, strongly impacted all consumer device markets, including mobile phones," Popal said.

"As the uncertainties of the lockdowns and total economic impact linger, vendors are reconsidering their outlook for 2020."

Image: IDC

Despite the fall in worldwide smartphone shipments, Samsung maintained its top position with 21% market share, shipping 58.3 million smartphones during the Q1. IDC attributed the success to Samsung's A series and said the higher price of its 5G flagship S20 improved its margins.

Meanwhile, Huawei held onto its number two position despite a slight decline in market share quarter over quarter from 18.9% to 17.8%, as well as shipment volumes dropping by 17% year over year from 59 million to 49 million.

"The company reduced the impact of the downturn with early price cuts on Mate 30 and P30 series and in Honor's V30 and 9X series along with a diversified online-offline channel mix which helped reach consumers even during periods of hard lockdown," IDC said.

iPhone shipment volumes remained steady at 36.7 million, which meant Apple was able to maintain third place in the smartphone race. It holds 13.3% of the market, a slight increase year over year from 11.8%. Part of it, according to IDC, was due to the continued success of its iPhone 11 series.

For Xiaomi, market share surpassed 10% for the first time with shipment volumes increasing to 29.5 million, from 27.8 million recorded during the same period last year.

Similarly, Vivo also saw an uptick in both shipment volumes and market share during Q1. Shipment volumes increased to 24.8 million from 23.2 million in 1Q19, and market share up to 9% from 7.4% year over year.

When examining the numbers from a regional perspective, China experienced the largest regional decline where shipments dropped just over 20% year over year. IDC explained how the "drop comes as a no surprise" as Q1 marked the peak of coronavirus lockdowns in China.

Other regions reported similar declines, with the US and western Europe dropping by 16% and 18% respectively.

"The Chinese market saw better than expected demand in March as the number of new COVID-19 cases began to ease," IDC research manager Will Wing said.

"Nevertheless, the rate of recovery in March is mostly due to pent-up demand and is unlikely to be sustained as the global economic downturn is expected to have an adverse impact on the Chinese economy and consumer sentiment as well, and only allow the market to achieve annual growth in the fourth quarter."

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