IDC reveals impact of Covid-19 on smartphone market

1 May 2020

Image: © Alexey Novikov/

The International Data Corporation said global smartphone shipments suffered the worst annual decline ever in the first quarter of 2020.

In its latest quarterly mobile tracker research, the International Data Corporation (IDC) highlighted a significant decline in smartphone shipments as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The IDC said that companies shipped around 275.8m smartphones in the first quarter of 2020, which is a decrease of 11.7pc compared to the same period last year. Although the market usually sees a decline in Q1 compared with the previous quarter, this marks the largest ever year-on-year decline in smartphone shipments, according to IDC.

The market research firm added that the drop comes as “no surprise” in light of the disruption caused globally by Covid-19.

Consumer caution

The largest regional decline in the quarter took place in China, where shipments dropped by 20.3pc compared to Q1 2019. The impact of Covid-19 in China also created major supply chain issues for smartphone makers.

In the US, shipments declined by 16.1pc and in western Europe they were down by 18.3pc.

Nabila Popal, research director with IDC’s Worldwide Mobile Device Trackers, said: “What started as a primarily supply-side problem initially limited to China has grown into a global economic crisis with the demand side starting to show by the end of the quarter.

“While the supply chain in China started to recover at end of the quarter, as IDC expected, major economies around the world went into complete lockdown, causing consumer demand to flatline. Consumers get increasingly cautious about their spending in such uncertain times and it is hard to think smartphone purchases won’t suffer as a result.

The drop in demand and the closures of retail stores is expected to impact all consumer device markets, according to IDC. Though demand began to recover in China as the spread of Covid-19 eased, IDC research manager Will Wing said this is “unlikely to be sustained” as the global economic downturn is expected to have an adverse impact on consumer sentiment.

How it has affected smartphone makers

Samsung regained the top position in terms of smartphone market share (21.1pc), with 58.3m phones shipped globally in Q1. This was attributed to the success of the company’s A Series, rather than the launch of its premium 5G flagship device, the Galaxy S20.

In second place was Huawei, which held a 17.8pc share of the global smartphone market. To reduce the impact of the downturn, Huawei reduced the price of its Mate 30 and P30 series.

Apple had 13.3pc of the market, shipping 36.7m iPhones in Q1. Shipments for Apple were only down 0.4pc year over year, which is the lowest annual decline seen in the top three vendors. The company acknowledged this slip in its latest earnings report this week.

IDC put Apple’s performance down to the continued success of the iPhone 11, commenting that the launch of the company’s lower-priced SE device “could work well for the vendor” if consumers now take a budget-friendly approach to smartphone purchases.

Meanwhile, Xioami’s market share has surpassed 10pc for the first time ever after the launch of new products in India just before lockdown began, which IDC said helped the company’s figures. Vivo also made it into the top five with a 9pc market share as a result of 7pc year-over-year growth in shipments, also thanks to success in India.

Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic