Gartner also forecast that global device shipments will be flat in 2019 and foldable phones will reach 30 million units shipment figures by 2023
Shipments of mobile phones are estimated to reach 1.8 billion units in 2019, a decline of 0.5 per cent year over year. “Users have reached a threshold for new technology and applications, which means that unless new models provide significant new utility, efficiency or experiences, users don’t want or need to upgrade,” said Roberta Cozza, research director at Gartner.
She added, “As a result, we expect the high-end mobile phone market to continue to show a decline in mature markets during 2019.”
In 2020, the mobile phone market is forecast to return to growth, with a shipments increase of 1.2 percent from 2019. Nevertheless, vendors need to realize that consumers are extending the lifetime of their phones. Gartner expects the average high-end phone lifetime to increase from 2.6 years to 2.8 years through 2023.
Foldable phones to account for five per cent of high-end phones
A number of vendors recently unveiled foldable phones during Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, with many estimated to launch in late 2019. While Gartner analysts expect foldable phones to potentially re-inject innovation in the smartphone market, they are cautious about their short-term uptake due to trade-offs. Gartner estimates that foldable phones will account for 5 percent of high-end phones by 2023, amounting to 30 million units.
“We expect that users will use a foldable phone as they do their regular smartphone, picking it up hundreds of times a day, unfolding it sporadically and typing on its plastic screen, which may scratch quickly depending on the way it folds,” said Cozza.
She added, “Through the next five years, we expect foldable phones to remain a niche product due to several manufacturing challenges. In addition to the surface of the screen, the price is a barrier despite we expect to decline with time. Currently priced at $2,000, foldable phones present too many trade-offs, even for many early technology adopters.”
In the short term, Gartner analysts expect manufacturers to provide more form factor experimentation with foldable phones, as they aim to understand optimal usability patterns and user preferences. Cozza added, “A key consideration for product managers is to place usability at the core of their product development, ensuring the user experience is continuous and seamless across all foldable screens.”