Phone sales plummet amid the coronavirus lockdown

June 1, 2020, 7:30 AM UTC

Smartphone sales plunged 20% in the first quarter from a year earlier, the sharpest decline on record, according to market tracker Gartner, as the global pandemic forced wireless carriers to shutter stores worldwide.

“The coronavirus pandemic caused the global smartphone market to experience its worst decline ever,” Anshul Gupta, senior research analyst at Gartner, said in a statement. “Most of the leading Chinese manufacturers and Apple were severely impacted by the temporary closures of their factories in China and reduced consumer spending due to the global shelter-in-place.”

The report is consistent with data from other sources, all of which showed a huge drop in phone sales during the COVID-19 outbreak. IDC said first-quarter phone shipments from manufacturers to retailers dropped 12%, and Apple reported its revenue from iPhone sales fell 7% last quarter. Some other hardware categories, like laptops, have held up better during the pandemic as more people needed to buy gear to work from home.

Among the three largest smartphone sellers, Samsung saw the number of phones it sold shrink 23% to 55 million, Huawei’s sales fell 27% to 42 million, and Apple’s sales dropped 8% to 41 million, according to Gartner. Industrywide, phone sales dropped 20% to 299 million devices.

Chinese phonemaker Huawei, which suffered the largest drop, is also being hurt by U.S. efforts to cut off its access to American hardware and software suppliers, particularly Google.

“Huawei will have a challenging year,” Gupta says. “It has developed the Huawei Mobile Service ecosystem, but with the lack of popular Google apps and Google Play store, Huawei is unlikely to attract new smartphone buyers in international markets.”

Samsung’s decline was also significant as its new line of Galaxy S20 phones debuted in February and went on sale in March.

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