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Coronavirus led to the biggest smartphone shipment decline in history

Published Mar 22nd, 2020 1:06PM EDT
Global Smartphone Sales
Image: Alex Tai/SOPA Images/Shutterstock

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  • Global smartphone shipments in February dropped by 38% compared to last year, setting a record-breaking decline in the process.
  • With millions of individuals still stuck at home on quarantine, there’s a good chance the decline will be more pronounced in March.
  • Apple retail stores outside of China remain closed and there’s no telling when they may re-open for business.
  • Visit BGR’s homepage for more stories.

In a development that shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody, global smartphone shipments in February dropped by 38% year-over-year, according to a new report from Strategy Analytics. The 38% drop off marks the biggest decline in smartphone shipments in history, a fact which can obviously be attributed to the coronavirus. As to the specific figures, global smartphone shipments in February of last year checked in at 99.2 million units. Last month, smartphone shipments dropped down to 61.8 million units.

“Smartphone demand collapsed in Asia last month, due to the COVID-19 outbreak, and this dragged down shipments across the world,” the report reads in part. “Some Asian factories were unable to manufacture smartphones, while many consumers were unable or unwilling to visit retail stores and buy new devices.”

Looking forward, there’s no telling when the smartphone market will bounce back. Even amidst reports that factories in China are slowly but surely returning to normal production capacity, purchasing a new smartphone is likely the last thing on most people’s minds. Especially in light of the fact that large segments of the population remain quarantined at home, with many of them unable to work and earn a paycheck. In effect, disposable income is something of a luxury in these trying times and a new smartphone is far down on the list of priorities.

Further, even individuals interested in picking up a new device face some challenges. Say, for example, you want to get a new iPhone. Well, every single Apple retail store outside of China is closed for the foreseeable future. Similarly, AT&T a few days ago announced that it was closing 40% of its corporate-owned stores as part of its own effort to combat the coronavirus.

In light of all that, Strategy Analytics maintains that smartphone shipments will remain incredibly week throughout March. If anything, it stands to reason that the year-over-year drop off in smartphone sales will be more pronounced in March than it was in February given that many people in the United States didn’t start quarantining until about a week or two ago.

“The coronavirus scare has spread to Europe, North America and elsewhere, and hundreds of millions of affluent consumers are in lockdown, unable or unwilling to shop for new devices,” Strategy Analytics analyst Yiwen Wu said.

“The smartphone industry will have to work harder than ever to lift sales in the coming weeks,” Wu added, “such as online flash sales or generous discounts on bundling with hot products like smartwatches.”

Yoni Heisler Contributing Writer

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large with over 15 years of experience. A life long expert Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW.

When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.