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Global device shipments to plummet by 13.6% in 2020

Despite several markets in the technology sector seeing bumps in sales and revenue as the world struggles against the COVID-19 pandemic, many more are seeing their numbers worsening – and today Gartner has revealed that the worldwide market for devices is part of the latter group.

Global shipments of mobile phones, tablets and PCs are on track to decline by 13.6% in 2020, totalling 1.9 billion units, according to Gartner’s latest data.

The short-to-medium-term economic impact from COVID-19 on people’s income and status of employment will outweigh the brief heightened necessity of acquiring devices to enable remote learning and working.

This is reflected in Gartner’s data on PCs, shipments of which are expected to decline by 10.5%. This is despite a moderate increase in spending on small devices built for work, like notebook laptops or tablets, which are forecast to decline slower than the overall PC market this year.

“The forecasted decline in the PC market, in particular, could have been much worse,” says Gartner senior research director Ranjit Atwal.

“However, government lockdowns due to COVID-19 forced businesses and schools to enable millions of people to work from home and increase spending on new notebooks, Chromebooks and tablets for those workers. 

“Education and government establishments also increased spending on those devices to facilitate e-learning.”

Research from Gartner found that almost half (48%) of employees will likely work remotely at least part of the time after the pandemic – increasing from 30% pre-pandemic.

Atwal says the great shift to remote working will also encourage IT departments to shift its hardware fleet more to portable devices in the future.

“This trend combined with businesses required to create flexible business continuity plans will make business notebooks displace desk-based PCs through 2021 and 2022,” Atwal says.

Mobile phones are forecast by Gartner to decline slightly more than PCs in 2020 at 14.6%, while the smartphone subset market will decline by 13.7% to 1.3 billion units in 2020.

This is despite increased overall usage of mobile phones, (smartphones in particular) throughout the pandemic through their function as a communication device. 

“Reduced disposable income will result in fewer consumers upgrading their phones,” says Atwal.

“As a result, phone lifetimes will extend from 2.5 years in 2018 to 2.7 years in 2020."

Another way in which COVID-19 has turned previous expectations on its head comes in the form of drastically reduced forecasts for shipments of 5G phones.

Gartner says affordable 5G phones were expected to be the catalyst to increase phone replacements in 2020, but now expects this will not be the case. 

Gartner predicts 5G phones will now represent only 11% of total mobile phone shipments in 2020.

“The delayed delivery of some 5G flagship phones is an ongoing issue,” says Gartner research vice president Annette Zimmermann.

“Moreover, the lack of 5G geographical coverage along with the increasing cost of the 5G phone contract will impact the choice of a 5G phone.”