Omdia: Global smartphone shipments fell by 16.8 % in Q1 as coronavirus takes toll

Global smartphone shipments dropped by 16.8% in the first quarter of 2020 as vendors struggled to manage coronavirus-driven production shutdowns, product-launch delays and depressed consumer demand.

Shipments in the first quarter fell to 274.4 million units, down from 329.9 million during the same period in 2019, according to the Omdia Smartphone Intelligence Service. This drop impacted all the major smartphone brands, with nine of the top-10 OEMs suffering shipment declines compared to the first quarter of 2019.

Despite expected rebounds in some countries, the rest of the year is expected to be challenging for smartphone OEMs. Omdia forecasts global smartphone shipments will decline to 1.20 billion units this year, down 13.1% from 1.39 billion in 2019.

Samsung retained the top position, with 58.9 million units shipped during the first quarter—a 17% decline compared to the first quarter of 2019. Second-ranked Huawei saw its shipments decline by more than 17%, to 49 million units, down from 59.1 million in the first quarter of 2019.

Apple, in third place, saw shipments decline to 38.5 million units, down from 43.8 million a year earlier. The 12% decline comes during the first quarter, historically the weakest period of the year for Apple. One company, Realme, however, has managed to buck the trend. Its low-cost handsets continue to be popular with consumers in India, with shipments totaling 6.1 million units, up 88% from 3.2 million during the first quarter of 2019.

Supply chain woes

Early in the first quarter, the most severe impact on the smartphone market was the shutdown of production and supply chain facilities in China. However, fears over a prolonged closure of essential production, supply chain and logistics operations in China have been alleviated, as signs point to economic activity ramping up quickly in the country.

Smartphone makers in the first quarter also had their product-launch plans disrupted by the cancellation of the Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona, Spain, where many companies had planned to roll out new products.

Early in the first quarter, the smartphone market was sent reeling by the shutdown of production at facilities in China, which halted the manufacturing of phones and their key components. While concerns about this situation have been alleviated, the smartphone brands also faced new challenges, including disrupted launch schedules for new phones. Even more troubling for smartphone makers is a major decline in global demand due to government lockdown mandates.

Jusy Hong, smartphone research and analysis director, Omdia