Development of the smartphone market

There were around 8.1 billion mobile communications subscriptions worldwide in the third quarter of 2021, according to the Ericsson Mobility Report for that year.

The number of mobile connections made using smartphones continues to rise, and was expected to have reached a total of 6.3 billion at the end of 2021, corresponding to approximately 77% of all mobile telephony subscriptions. It is forecast to increase still further to 7.7 billion in 2027, representing 86% of all mobile contracts.

The smartphone market has slowed down in recent years, however, expanding less than in the previous decade when masses of consumers rushed to buy the very latest in phone technology. The trend is explained by factors such as the high proportion of the population that already owns a smartphone, little technological innovation, high prices and greater environmental awareness among consumers that means that they are keeping their devices for longer.

The industry had invested its hopes for new growth in 5G, but the COVID-19 crisis delayed its rollout in 2020, and a lack of semiconductors held sales back in the first half of 2021. According to the latest figures released by International Data Corporation (IDC) in January 2022, 1.35 billion smartphones were sold worldwide in 2021, corresponding to a 5.7% increase in sales volume. This was thanks to strong growth in the first half of the year, which evened up the lower-than-expected second half. Component shortages and supply bottlenecks may persist in 2022.

Growth of the second-hand market

Whether for financial or environmental reasons, reconditioned smartphones are an increasingly popular choice among consumers. Despite the supply issues that also impact this market, sales continued to rise in 2021.

According to IDC, unlike the recent contraction in the market for new smartphones there are no signs of the market for second-hand phones softening anywhere in the world. More and more device manufacturers and also mobile network operators have introduced return schemes in recent years. For many consumers and businesses, reconditioned pre-owned devices are a worthwhile alternative. Sales are expected to rise to 351.6 million units by 2024, which would correspond to annual growth of 11.2% in the 2019‒24 period. Total revenue in 2024 is expected to reach USD 65 billion.

Increasing numbers of consumers in Switzerland are planning to hold on to their mobiles for longer. According to the 2021 Comparis Smartphone Report, 39.1% of users intend to use their current phone for at least four years, which is up on the 32.8% recorded in 2019. Ever fewer plan to buy a new smartphone in the next 12 months (44%, down from 57.1% in 2019). Comparis believes that this is an underlying trend rather than simply a temporary slowdown in response to the coronavirus crisis.

At Swisscom, too, demand for used smartphones continued to rise in 2021: re-used devices in relation to new models sold grew from 15.5% to 21% over the past year.

Last modification 20.05.2022

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