5G mobile phones will account for 12% of overall global mobile phone sales or 221m units this year and more than double to 489m units next year as more manufacturers join the bandwagon.
According to research firm Gartner, sales of smartphones to end-users are on track to grow by 3% to 1.57b units this year from 1.53b a year ago.
In the Middle East and North Africa, the smartphone sales will exhibit the highest growth rates by 5.9% to 78.22m this year compared to 73.87m device last year but it will fall by 3.35% in 2021 to 75.6m units.
In Greater China (China, Taiwan and Hong Kong), the market will grow by 5.1% to 432.33m this year compared to 411.35m last year but the market will fall to 426m units in 2021.
Annette Zimmermann, research vice president at Gartner, said that the market is expected to rebound this year with the introduction of 5G network coverage in more countries and as users who may have delayed their smartphone purchases until 2020 in expectation of price reductions will begin to buy again.
She said that the commercialisation of 5G phones will accelerate in 2020.
Akash Balachandran, senior research analyst at IDC, said that 5G’s share in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries is expected to remain small in 2020 at 2.7% of the total shipments to just over 500,000 units compared to 0.1% unit share in 2019.
“5G smartphones are expected to grow significantly as prices drop and 5G becomes available in mid-range devices, which currently make up the bulk of the smartphone shipments in GCC,” he said.
By the end of 2023, he said that 5G devices are expected to grow to make up over 38% unit share in the GCC smartphone market.
5G phones to exceed 4G in 12 months
Zimmermann said 5G phones costing under $300 have been announced, so sales growth of 5G phones is expected to exceed that of 4G phones over twelve months.
Moreover, she said that strong demand for 5G phones in general, together with expectations of Apple’s first 5G iPhone, will bolster demand for smartphones, particularly in Asia/Pacific and Greater China.
“The key focus for vendors will be access to 5G and enhancement of the camera technology within devices,” she said.
However, she said that 2019 was a challenging year for smartphone vendors, primarily due to oversupply in the high-end sector in mature markets and longer replacement cycles overall.
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Focus on AI camera
Shobhit Srivastava, Research Analyst at Counterpoint Research, said vendors will focus more on the AI aspect of the camera rather than the megapixel race.
“5G will become mainstream this year and drive growth this year. The game for megapixel has gone away and vendors are more focusing on AI camera. AI is one of the factors that is going to drive 5G. AI is right now available on the premium handsets but it will trickle down to lower price segments also.
“The availability of technology is there but higher adoption happens when it comes down to lower price segment. The smartphone shipments will record growth this year and it will be due to 5G handsets,” he said.