Monday 8 April 2019 12:09 pm

Smartphone sales to fall in 2019 as foldable phones fail to spark interest

Global smartphone sales are set to fall again this year as consumers shun upgrades and hold on to their devices for longer.

Shipments of mobile phones are expected to slip 0.5 per cent to 1.8bn in 2019, according to data published by research firm Gartner.

Read more: Samsung warns of 60 per cent drop in profits

The figures reflect waning demand in the market, as rising prices and a lack of significant new technology mean customers are less likely to invest in new models.

In January Apple shocked markets by issuing a warning on its sales performance amid sliding demand for iPhones, while Samsung last week warned its first quarter profits are set to plunge 60 per cent.

“Users have reached a threshold for new technology and applications, which means that unless new models provide significant new utility, efficiency or experiences, users don’t want or need to upgrade,” said Roberta Cozza, research director at Gartner.

The forecast showed the mobile phone market will return to growth in 2020, with sales set to rise 1.2 per cent on this year.

But Gartner warned consumers are hanging on to their mobiles for longer than before, with the average lifetime for high-end phones expected to increase from 2.6 years to 2.8 years by 2023.

The report shows uptake of new foldable smartphones, which are the latest development in mobile technology, will be slow in the short-term due to manufacturing issues and hefty price tags.

The devices will account for 30m units – just five per cent of the market for high-end phones – by 2023, according to Gartner.

Manufacturers are hoping the rollout of 5G-enabled smartphones will inject growth back into the market. However, these devices are not expected to be widely available this year.

Read more: Samsung issues profit warning as memory chip prices drop

“With smaller design changes between smartphone generations and ever-higher price tags, it's becoming harder for customers to justify forking out for the latest handsets,” said Ru Bhikha, mobiles expert at Uswitch.

“While the arrival of foldable phones and 5G-ready devices earlier this year prove that material changes can still happen in the smartphone market, it's hard to escape the fact that the annual launch bonanzas don’t carry as much weight as they used to.”