Pandemic-hit smartphone market to pick up sales in 2021

The lockdown may have led to the first-ever drop in several years, the demand for devices picked up as India started to work from home in the new normal.

V&D Bureau

The smartphone market in India registered a 2% year-on-year (YoY) decline in 2020, the first time after several years of strong growth. According to International Data Corporation’s (IDC) Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, the India smartphone market exited 2020 at 150 million units, a 1.7% YoY decline, after several years of growth. “Stay-at-home mandates, remote work, remote education, travel restrictions, and manufacturing shutdowns led to a sluggish H1’20 (-26% YoY decline), particularly impacting 2Q20,” IDC stated.

The report, however, indicates that the sector recovered in H2’20 with 19% YoY growth, as markets reopened gradually. Lockdowns and restrictions rendered an urgent need for devices supporting activities such as entertainment, work from home, and remote learning, resulting in more devices per household, and leading to a resurgence in demand for consumer devices including smartphones, consumer notebooks, and tablets in 2020.

The sector, recovered in 4Q20 (October-December) posting a record shipments of 45 million devices, with 21% YoY growth. While smartphone shipments for the full year 2020 remained below the pre-pandemic level, IDC believes that strong market acceleration in 2021 will be led by upgraders.

“The rebound of the smartphone market in the latter half of 2020 underscores the importance of devices in our day-to-day lives. In 2021, IDC expects the smartphone market to grow in high single-digit YoY, driven majorly by upgrading consumers, in the mid-range segment and affordable 5G offerings (~US$250). Also, revamped offline channel play is anticipated, to bring back growth in the very important brick and mortar counters for long-term sustainability,” IDC India Research Director for Client Devices & IPDS Navkendar Singh said.

Added IDC India Associate Research Manager, Client Devices Upasana Joshi: “As more 5G devices enter in 2021, the ASP for smartphones is expected to rise. IDC expects vendors to launch 5G devices at multiple price points backed by aggressive promotions, as 5G currently remains a novelty rather than a necessity to most.”

Top 5 smartphone vendors

Xiaomi’s performance in 2020 was led by its affordable Redmi 8 series, gradually replaced by the Redmi 9 series in H2’20. Though it continued to face supply shortages through H2’20, resulting in an annual decline, Xiaomi maintained its leadership in 2020. POCO,

Xiaomi’s sub-brand, entered the “top 5 online channel vendor list”, strengthening Xiaomi’s online position at a 39% share in 2020.

Samsung remained in its second spot in the 2020 ranking, with its online-heavy portfolio driven by the Galaxy M series and the newly launched F series. Online channel registered strong 65% YoY growth, while the offline channel shipments declined by 28%, thus leading to an overall drop of 4% in 2020.

Vivo stood at the third position, with strong growth in the offline channel, dethroning Samsung for the leadership position in the offline channel with 30% share, driven by the affordable Y series and dedicated efforts in marketing and promotional activities offline channels.

Realme surpassed OPPO for the fourth slot with 19 million annual shipments, growing by 19% YoY in 2020. It continued to be the second-largest online vendor, with its affordable C-series as a major driver.

OPPO’s annual growth remained flat YoY in 2020, while it maintained a focus on the offline channels, and regained its third slot ahead of Xiaomi with an 18% annual share driven by the affordable A series.

Among others, Transsion (ranked sixth) accounted for an impressive 64% annual growth in 2020, driven by its online-exclusive Infinix portfolio and its Itel and Tecno-branded phones widely available in smaller towns and rural areas.  Apple, at the seventh slot, exited 2020 with YoY growth of 93%, driven by previous generation products like the iPhone 11, iPhone SE (2020), and iPhone XR, even as the new iPhone 12 series had a strong pickup in 4Q20.

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