5G will push global smartphone sales up by 3% in 2020, providing original equipment manufacturers the much-needed breather after a sluggish 2019, according to research and advisory firm Gartner Inc. Smartphone sales declined 2% in 2019.

A total of 1.57 billion smartphones are expected to be sold in 2020, of which 221 million units would be 5G handsets. The number is likely to more than double in 2021 to 489 million units. The overall global smartphone sales in 2021 is expected to be 1.59 billion.

“In 2020, the market is expected to rebound with the introduction of 5G network coverage in more countries. The commercialisation of 5G phones will accelerate in 2020. 5G phones costing under $300 have been announced, so sales growth of 5G phones is expected to exceed that of 4G phones over twelve months," Annette Zimmermann, research vice president at Gartner said in a statement.

Gartner attributes the slow growth in 2019 to oversupply in the high-end sector in mature markets like US and Europe and longer replacement cycles at a global level.

Lack of innovation in smartphones was a major reason why consumers are holding on longer to their existing phones. To drive up sales and create more buzz, many OEMs, including Samsung, even launched smartphones with foldable screens. However, due to their higher price tag or initial durability issues with the screen this new segment hasn’t got the traction that was expected.

According to Gartner, Greater China, which includes China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, and emerging Asia Pacific market that includes India will remain the key markets with highest expected sale of 432 million units and 376 million units, respectively, in 2020. North America with 155 million units and Western Europe with 147 million units will be the biggest markets outside of Asia in 2020.

Anshul Gupta, senior research director at Gartner, said smartphone sales in India will increase a marginal 0.76% year-on-year in 2020, especially in the basic and premium phones categories.

“The growth will arise from the demand for mid-price smartphones in India. We can expect unit sales to improve in 2020, as compared to 2019. Premium features including improved camera, display at affordable price will be key growth drivers too," added Gupta.

Qualcomm and MediaTek have already announced their 5G mobile chipsets and many OEMs are expected to launch smartphones driven by them in India too. However, 5G services in the country are expected to be rolled out not before 2021. According to reports, the telecom department will hold auctions for 5G spectrum by the end of 2020 or early 2021.

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