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The number of 5G smartphones in India keep growing despite lack of network availability. According to the Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker by the International Data Corporation (IDC), the country saw over three million shipments of 5G smartphones in 2020, out of a total of 150 million units. Analysts said that while the overall market for smartphones saw a modest decline (of 1.7% year-over-year) for the first time since 2009, the 5G smartphone market grew between 2019 and 2020.

“In 2021, IDC expects the smartphone market to grow in high single-digit year-on-year, driven majorly by upgrading consumers in the mid-range segment and affordable 5G offerings (~$250)," said Navkendar Singh, Research Director, Client Devices at IDC. “Also revamped offline channel play is anticipated, to bring back growth in the very important brick and mortar counters for long term sustainability," he added.

According to the fourth-quarter market report by Cybermedia Research (CMR), Chinese smartphone maker OnePlus led the 5G smartphone segment with 58% market share in 2020, followed by the American tech giant, Apple, which took 20% of the 5G smartphone market share in India. CMR estimates this number to grow substantially in 2021. In its fourth-quarter report, the firm predicted a “tenfold" growth for 5G smartphone shipments to over 30 million devices, even though 5G networks will likely not be available till late 2022 or early 2023.

While 5G smartphones were earlier available only in the flagship ranges, 2020 saw average selling price (ASP) for these devices drop as well. Brands like Xiaomi and OnePlus have launched 5G smartphones priced at the sub-$250 price point. Upasana Joshi, Associate Research Manager, Client Devices at IDC India, said ASPs for smartphones overall will rise as 5G devices enter the market in 2021.

“In 2021 and beyond, as India’s nascent digital economy takes off, the smartphone industry would gain strength, driven by feature phone users transiting to entry-level smartphones, and new, powerful offerings across price tiers, including 5G-capable smartphone offerings at mid to lower price tiers, including in the sub-Rs. 20,000 price band," said Anand Priya Singh, Analyst, Industry Intelligence Group (IIG) at CMR.

India’s 5G rollout plans have so far been delayed, but telcos are expected to be ready by late next year. Telecom major Bharti Airtel had demonstrated a live 5G service on an use case basis over a commercial network in Hyderabad on January 28 this year, while billionaire Mukesh Ambani has said that Reliance Industries (RIL) will be ready for India’s “5G revolution" in the second half of 2021.

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