back to article And we're back live with the state of the smartphone market in 2019. Any hope? Yeah, nah

Industry watcher Gartner has bad news for smartphone vendors this morning – 2019 is looking like it'll be the first year in which worldwide sales of smartphones decline. Following in the footsteps of the global PC market, smartphones sold to users will barely crest the 1.5 billion unit mark for 2019, a drop of 2.5 per cent …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Perhaps there is a positive story here as well?

    1) Phones do what people want / need

    2) They have a good service life

    3) People are starting to realise there is more to life

    Or it could also be that the price gouging has got to the point that people are just saying "enough already"!

    1. BigAndos

      Re: Perhaps there is a positive story here as well?

      1) and 2) and price gouging definitely! I buy second hand phones now. £900 new is just too much for a "flagship" phone, that if its an android may only get major OS updates for 1 or 2 years. Apple's flagships even higher prices but at least they get supported longer I guess.

    2. MrKrotos

      Re: Perhaps there is a positive story here as well?

      "People are starting to realise there is more to life"

      I hear a lot of people are on tech detox, a few friends of mine have made a point of not using their phones as much as in the past.

    3. Hemmels

      Re: Perhaps there is a positive story here as well?

      4) Less precious metals ending up in landfill etc?

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Perhaps there is a positive story here as well?

      3) People are starting to realise there is more to life

      Yup. I have already been caught without a phone, and I hope to repeat that more often. I have told various people that they can reach me via email, not messaging, unless it's house-on-fire level urgent (it depends on my relationship if I then bring water of petrol, but I digress).

    5. teknopaul Silver badge

      Re: Perhaps there is a positive story here as well?

      Maybe el reg should just print the numbers and let comentards do the analysis.

      Gartner's analysis is clearly nonsense.

    6. KewlToyZ

      Re: Perhaps there is a positive story here as well?

      I'm still incredibly disappointed that MS Nadella killed off their Mobile platform. I loved the Nokia Lumia 920

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Only 3 years late ..

    I was calling this in 2016. And it mattered, as it fed into the risk matrix for insuring smartphones my employer used to set premiums. That's when most "analysts" were telling us that the market will pick up in 2017.

    Only I didn't need a wheelbarrow to bank my fee like these clowns.

    Honestly, who trusts them anymore ?

    (See also PCs and tablets ....)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Only 3 years late ..

      Oh yeah YOU predicted this. As if. I've seen such theories touted since the second iPhone.

      1. Psmo Bronze badge

        Re: Only 3 years late ..

        With the number of predictions, odds are that one or two will be right.

        And that none of the correct ones will be mine.

    2. teknopaul Silver badge

      Re: Only 3 years late ..

      Hang on, your admitting to calling it 3 years early. Anyone can tell you that eventually the market wil decline the important thing is when.

    3. AdamWill

      Re: Only 3 years late ..

      Er. Gartner doesn't "call" future trends (in this case, anyway), it is estimating - as accurately as it can - actual shipment numbers. Even if they saw this coming, they could hardly report sales were down in 2017 or 2018 if they weren't, could they?

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Only 3 years late ..

      I called this in 1991. Vanilla Ice helped me on the analysis.

  3. phuzz Silver badge
    Windows

    Wait, so once you've sold everyone a smartphone, you can't keep expecting them to buy another one, year after year, for ever-increasing prices?

    Oh noes! Won't someone please think of the poor multinationals!

    Perhaps we should all go out tomorrow, but the most expensive smartphone we can find, and then throw it in a river. That way those poor, benighted tech execs can still pull down their seven+ figure salaries and bonuses.

    What's that? They'll still get their bonuses anyway? Oh fuck 'em.

  4. Alan Bourke

    Ah, folding screens ...

    ... the self-driving car of the phone world.

    1. batfink Bronze badge

      Re: Ah, folding screens ...

      Yes we've clearly all been missing a phone with a foldable screen from our lives.

      Does anyone here perhaps have kids in the target market for these so we can have an opinion from them? Is there actually a market??

  5. jason 7 Silver badge

    What I dont get is...

    ...the folks that are happy to pay £50+ a month for three years (whatever) for a phone on contract.

    That or just flat out spending more than £600 on ANY phone let along the dumb assed fantasy figure of £1000.

    Me? £400 tops and it has to last me three years minimum.

    1. Dominic_

      Re: What I dont get is...

      Yup, only I'm tighter and Moto G is as pricey as I get

      1. Korev Silver badge

        Re: What I dont get is...

        I've just cracked the screen on mine after eight months and repair will be 70-80% of the phone's value if I get someone to do it* - my stingy side is furious!

        *I'm assuming I'd screw it up if I attempted it

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: What I dont get is...

          £500 bought me a new flagship Samsung only ten months after its release - i.e, waiting until its successor was announced saved a few hundred quid. That's cheerfully between the 600 and 400 cited by the above posters.

          I have spent around around £30 on four glass screen protectors in the last eighteen months, but that seems like a bargain compared to a new screen. The phone has also shrugged off three or four accidental dunkungs in water since I've had it too, events that in the past would have meant me buying a new handset.

    2. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: What I dont get is...

      £150 will get you a perfectly good phone, brand new.

      Although you will have to go without such 'features' as "we made the screen so big there's now a notch in it for the camera", and "we didn't bother to put a headphone port in" etc.

    3. osmarks

      Re: What I dont get is...

      I get cheap ~£100 ones every year and a half or so, since I basically just want something which I can browse the web and possibly call/text on-the-go om.

  6. Not also known as SC

    5G

    Could someone remind me why 5G is going to be better?

    1. AndyS

      Re: 5G

      One more G than 4G. Two more Gs than 3G!!

      What's not to love?

    2. LDS Silver badge

      Re: 5G

      You can chase unicorns while finding the gold pot at the end of the rainbow with 5G.

      Every "killer application" I've seen listed for 5G is more or less on the level of what I've written above. One telco here was blabbling about VR - someone in a museum was walking around and people away were watching what she was looking at in real time - I failed to understand why I should like it - instead of maybe having a virtual "museum" I could navigate myself at my own pace - and if art pieces are flat - why not looking at them without VR... Of course, looking at the real things directly can be better, for many reasons, i.e. getting out of the armchair and walk around.

      Sure, some people will be happy with the faster speed and lower latency, many others won't see any difference - but the price increase.

      1. jason 7 Silver badge

        Re: 5G

        Whether its 2G/3G/4G/5G or 6G...whenever you really need that app/function or connectivity to work at a crucial moment...it won't.

        Worked fine when you were mucking about with it on the sofa the night before though.

        Sods law.

      2. matt 83

        Re: 5G

        yeah, I've always felt the main reason for going to a museum is the see the things in the flesh, be next to / in the thing that was part of history.

        I can' look at pictures of things on the internet already, no need for 5G.

    3. Persona Bronze badge

      Re: 5G

      I want to pay less for a new phone than the one I bought two years ago. I don't care if it's 4G or 5G. I'm only setting the bar at 4G because it's been around long enough for even the cheapest of phones.

    4. Jove Bronze badge

      Re: 5G

      At the moment I can not see any personal need to acquire a phone that is specifically 5G capable and I am guessing that most people see it this way as well.

      Current technology is good enough, it is the reliability and coverage of the service offering that are the biggest pains. Buying a new phone will not necessarily address such issues.

      I am guessing that network and handset vendors are going to find 5G a hard sell if the global economy continues on it's downward trajectory, and that 5G will not factor as a major consideration in the purchase of the next mobile for most end users.

  7. mark l 2 Silver badge

    I think the only way that the manufacturers would get a lot of people upgrading to a new phone is if there is a big leap in battery tech which means phones can last for weeks off one charge. Small changes such as slightly better cameras, CPUs that are a bit faster, and screens with a few more pixels are not really enough to get people to put their hands in their pockets every 12 months for a new handset. And i include 5G in this, as most people are probably happy enough with the speeds they get on 4G but would rather have better coverage than to be able to download at 200mbps.

    1. teknopaul Silver badge

      I think generic phones are good enough right now.

      If someone can squeeze in a projector that works in daylight.

      An ebook reader on the back.

      I'd buy an audio geek phone with 4 line in, 4 line out out, 4 mics plus wired headphones and hdmi.

      gpio connectors might be handy for hackers.

      4 usb connectors anyone

  8. J 3
    Meh

    Meh

    I only bought a new phone in May 2018 because the one I had had for about 2 years already was stolen... Otherwise, it worked perfectly fine and did well everything I needed. I strongly suspect that would still be the case today. So why spend a wad of hard-earned, then?

    Also, 1.5 billion phones is a lot, considering the world has less than 8 billion people, so not sure what they are complaining about...

  9. intrigid

    Sales 101: When you can't sell by adding new features, take away existing ones.

    We all know the industry is going to respond to this with even more aggressive efforts to make it as intolerable as possible for people to continue using their perfectly good phones. Removable batteries will continue to be banished from the industry. Non-refusable, non-reversible software patches will even more aggressively slow down older model phones. Rooting will be rendered impossible on more models of phone. Apps will continue to balloon in size, with even very simple ones occupying hundreds of megabytes, to force users of even 32 gigabyte models to upgrade.

    Still using my Galaxy S5, literally the most recent phone that has the features I want.

    1. Tikimon Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Sales 101: When you can't sell by adding new features, take away existing ones.

      You're probably right. But all this is because the stupid tech industry has bet the farm on the outdated "Frequent Trade In and Planned Obsolescence" sales model that auto manufacturers used to foist on us. That worked so well, the American auto makers gave the market to Japanese companies as cash-strapped buyers sought better vehicles and kept them for a useful life. The US car makers are still trying to catch up on reliability and long-term value.

      Those who ignore history will blindly repeat it, and the tech industry has done both.

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Sales 101: When you can't sell by adding new features, take away existing ones.

        Part of that is the companies deliberately choosing to do that, but I think this stems from the early days of phones, and for that matter computers. When they first came out, you could really tell when the phone was upgraded. Processing speed would be markedly better, and people would comment on the increased quality of screens in cameras. Now? I don't think so. Companies will have to realize the major changes that have happened to their market in order to plan their strategies, and the sooner they realize that the changes mean the old devices are still fine, the sooner they can try to really innovate to gain more sales.

    2. AK565

      Re: Sales 101: When you can't sell by adding new features, take away existing ones.

      I wish I could give this more than one thumbs up. Software 'updates' that reduced battery life and/or caused my phone to become 'too old' for needed apps are the main reasons I've changed phones.

  10. davcefai
    Facepalm

    What bothers me is the tacit assumption that WE MUST HAVE GROWTH. Surely any industry must realise that there is a limit to growth.

    Profits cannot keep soaring. Isn't it time to plan for a "flat line" economy?

    1. jonathan keith
      Joke

      Light the fire boys - looks like we got ourselves a goddamn hippy socialist.

  11. TheProf

    I want

    A headphone socket. For that reason alone I stayed away from the Top of the Range models last time I bought a phone.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: I want

      Samsung have only just ditched the headphone socket from their flagship phones, so at the time you were choosing your handset you still had that option.

      I'm now on the fence about a headphone socket. Whilst I use it often in the car, I can hear noise if I'm charging the phone from the cigarette lighter socket, something impossible through a Bluetooth connection and less likely through an included USB 3 > 3.5mm dongle. My work around is to charge a battery pack from the car and then use that to charge my phone. I suppose I can either buy a better fag lighter charger or buy a dongle, either for around a tenner. Chromecast Audio takes care of audio at home, Bluetooth earphones at work allow me to move around whilst charging my phone. Since I'm now sold on Active Noise Cancelling earphones, were I to buy a wired pair (say for long distance travelling to complement my battery powered wireless earphones) they would be USB 3.

      1. batfink Bronze badge

        Re: I want

        As I seem to spend my working life on conf calls, usually on my mobile (so I can pace/make more coffee/etc), earphones that don't need charging are a necessity. So, it's either dongles or buying phones with a headphone port for me. Guess which?

  12. Pirate Dave Silver badge
    Pirate

    Could have to do with

    Verizon (and perhaps others) not subsidizing their phones as heavily as they did in the past. Used to be, you could get a decent phone for $100-200 if you signed up for a 2-year contract. Now, they charge closer to retail, but allow you to spread the cost over 2 years. When my Samsung is paid off in another year, I'm going to keep using it until it just can't be used any longer (which, knowing Samsung, won't be long). Upgrading just to have new shiny-shiny is no longer the low-cost option it used to be.

  13. DougS Silver badge

    They claim $1000 phones are the reason for lengthening replacement cycles

    I think $1000 phones are the OEM's response to lengthening replacement cycles.

  14. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge
    Happy

    pointing toward average selling prices of the premium handhelds heading northwards of $1,000 as a reason for customers keeping their purses closed longer and upgrade cycles lengthening

    The price/pain-points still haven't been reached. US$1,000/unit? No problem. Apple will beat that. I expect Apple to unveil a US$2,100 phone in the next two years. I wish I was joking but I'm not.

    The thing is this: There are still a lot of people who are willing to be seen holding a US$1,500 phone what a US$500 phone can do (function-wise). The logic is very similar to the designer bags or jeans that they want to be "caught dead" using. Unlike designer bags, Apple phones lose their value over time.

    Apple is just "milking" this because they have no more "unicorn" product in the market.

    In the past (and under Steve Jobs), Apple used to lead in the technology (and everyone else follows). Samsung has released a phone that supports 5G. Apple is yet to release one.

    Unfortunately, Apple has put themselves into a corner. In order for them to maintain the "premium" category, they can't roll back the price. There's only one direction their prices will need to go and it's up. Rolling back the prices will only mean capitulation that the price has hit the pain-point threshold.

  15. David_42

    All of this "innovation" is less useful as battery life continues to decline. How many of you would be okay with a phone that was 3 mm thicker if the battery life doubled?

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Some would want triple battery life for a 5mm increase. Some are good with the current handset weight and thickness because they wish to use the weight and thickness 'budget' to add protection in the form of a case. Others have found that a combination of fast charging, common availability of charging points and battery packs have mitigated the need for longer battery life. Clerks charge off their computers, builders charge off their Makita radios.

      There's no one size fits all perfectly solution, but there are a few fits most people with a little compromise solutions.

    2. jason 7 Silver badge

      I'm one of those that likes their tech to have a bit of 'heft' to it. Makes it feel more value for money too.

      I just facepalm at phone reviewers that moan when a phone weighs more than 150grams.

      Are you a man or a marmoset?

  16. Denarius

    daylight viewable screen

    Once more with feeling; tired of having to find dark doorway to see what SMS arrived or use Maps. Might have to buy that Cat phone after all.

    1. David Paul Morgan
      Thumb Up

      Re: daylight viewable screen

      yotaphone - I'm fed up of trying to see google maps in sunny climates - canaries, israel, oh - GB last week!

      so, 2nd hand dual sim yotaphone (ideal for roaming) with e-Ink screen on one side.

      Either this or 'hack' my sony kobo to put google maps on it (don't need GPs, I suppose)

      so, yes to more differentiation - HQ Walkman sound from sony, e-paper/ink for hilers/travellers, bigger screen 4k (no notch) screens for movie watchers, tiny 10cm screens for nights out etc.

  17. The Ghost Deejay

    I dropped my telephone

    and it was going to cost HOW MUCH to repair?

    Fuck that. So I went into my loft and after digging through God knows how many boxes of stuff that I know I will need one day, I found it. My Nokia 3310. Complete with one2one sim. Long story short, new sim, new battery, and it works. No fucking emails, notifications or any of that bollocks. And the original snake. Life is now so much quieter. I now realise that my phone was smart but I was not.

    Cheers… Ishy

    1. xpz393

      Re: I dropped my telephone

      I still believe that if "Nokia" re-lauched the ORIGINAL 3310 and the ORIGINAL 6310i and charged no more than £100, there'd be decent buy-in as the re-imagined versions are cheap and nasty both physically, and in terms of the OS.

      Only things they may need to consider are a shift to the li-ion battery for the 3310 (6310i was already li-ion IIRC?), and support for 4G + VoLTE, considering 2G will eventually disappear.

      1. Jove Bronze badge

        Re: I dropped my telephone

        "Only things they may need to consider are a shift to the li-ion battery for the 3310 (6310i was already li-ion IIRC?), and support for 4G + VoLTE, considering 2G will eventually disappear."

        So you ask for the original designs to be re-launched, then straight-away suggest expensive changes to those designs.

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