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NEW DELHI: After several years of steady growth, India's smartphone market hit a rough patch in 2020, with shipments declining nearly 2% year-on-year (YoY) to 150 million units, as per International Data Corporation’s (IDC) quarterly mobile phone tracker published on Monday.

The slump was concentrated in the first half of 2020, when sales fell 26% YoY, due to supply chain disruption and manufacturing shutdowns amid the coronavirus pandemic. As production resumed gradually, the market recovered with a 19% YoY increase in shipments in second half of the year. Shipments during December quarter grew a record 21% YoY.

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Despite the decline, India remains the second biggest smartphone market after China. Global smartphone shipments were down 5.9% YoY in 2020, as per IDC.

“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 ($250)," Navkendar Singh , research director, Client Devices & IPDS, IDC India, said in a statement.

Online sales outpaced total sales in calendar year 2020, growing at 12%. Though the online market share at the end of year was 48%, in the December quarter it accounted for 51% of all shipments, a record high as per IDC. Prolonged sales events, promotions and exchange/upgrade programmes were some of the factors that made people turn to online platforms.

IDC noted that footfall in retail stores gradually picked up during the pre-Diwali weeks of October and November, resulting in a 5% YoY growth in December quarter for offline channels. During most of the first half of the year, offline channels were hit as most stores remained shut due to lockdown and social distancing norms.

IDC expects offline retail to bounce back in 2021. “Revamped offline channel play is anticipated, to bring back growth in the very important brick and mortar counters for long term sustainability," said Singh.

With the roll out of 5G services expected sometime in 2022, demand for 5G devices also grew. Shipment of 5G smartphones crossed 3 million in 2020. “As more 5G devices enter in 2021, the ASP for smartphones is expected to rise," said Upasana Joshi, associate research manager, Client Devices, IDC India.

Among brands, Xiaomi was the undisputed leader with 27% of market share, both during calendar year 2020 and December quarter. Though Xioami grew 12% sequentially, among the top five, Samsung was the fastest growing brand growing at 35%. The South Korean company’s market share in December quarter was at 17%. However, in terms of annual shipments, both Xiaomi and Samsung witnessed a fall in market share, indicating a tough year for the two brands. Apple was the fastest growing brand in 2020, rising 93% YoY to become the 7th leading smartphone brand in India.

Hong Kong-based Transsion was the 6th leading and second fastest growing brand after Apple with 64% growth in 2020. Transsion owns multiple brands such as the online-exclusive Infinix and Itel and Tecno-branded budget smartphones, aimed at buyers in smaller towns and rural areas.

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