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Smartphone Shipments to Suffer Annual Decline by 14.6% in 2020: Gartner

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5G phones are now forecast to represent only 11 per cent of total mobile phone shipments in 2020, the report said.

Due to impacts of Covid-19, shipments of total mobile phones are forecast to decline 14.6 percent in 2020, while smartphone shipments will achieve a slightly slower decline of 13.7 percent year over year to total 1.3 billion units this year, according to a Gartner forecast on Tuesday. "While users have increased the use of their mobile phones to communicate with colleagues, work partners, friends and families during lockdowns, reduced disposable income will result in fewer consumers upgrading their phones," Ranjit Atwal, Senior Research Director at Gartner, said in a statement.

"As a result, phone lifetimes will extend from 2.5 years in 2018 to 2.7 years in 2020," said Atwal. In 2020, affordable 5G phones were expected to be the catalyst to increase phone replacements, but now it is unlikely to be the case. 5G phones are now forecast to represent only 11 percent of total mobile phone shipments in 2020. "The delayed delivery of some 5G flagship phones is an ongoing issue," said Annette Zimmermann, Research Vice President at Gartner.

"Moreover, the lack of 5G geographical coverage along with the increasing cost of the 5G phone contract will impact the choice of a 5G phone." Overall, spending on 5G phones will be impacted in most regions apart from China, where continued investment in 5G infrastructure is expected, allowing providers in China to effectively market 5G phones.

The combined global shipments PCs, tablets and mobile phones are on pace to decline 13.6 percent in 2020, according to the forecast. PC shipments are expected to decline by 10.5 percent this year. Shipments of notebooks, tablets and Chromebooks are forecast to decline slower than the PC market overall in 2020.

"The forecasted decline in the PC market, in particular, could have been much worse," said Atwal. "However, government lockdowns due to COVID-19 forced businesses and schools to enable millions of people to work from home and increase spending on new notebooks, Chromebooks and tablets for those workers. Education and government establishments also increased spending on those devices to facilitate e-learning."

Gartner said that 48 percent of employees will likely work remotely at least part of the time after the COVID-19 pandemic, compared to 30 percent pre-pandemic. Overall, the work from home trend will make IT departments shift to more notebooks, tablets and Chrome devices for work. "This trend combined with businesses required to create flexible business continuity plans will make business notebooks displace desk-based PCs through 2021 and 2022," said Atwal.