Mobile Phone Market Poised for Slowdown in 2009, Says IDC
FRAMINGHAM, MA – December 18, 2008 – The impact of the global economic crisis will spread to the mobile phone market resulting in a downturn in shipments in 2009. According to IDC, total mobile phone volumes will be 2.2% lower in 2009 than 2008 levels, the first downturn in annual shipment volumes since 2001 when shipments declined 2.3%. Over the past several years, the mobile phone market has enjoyed double-digit annual growth due to an increased emphasis on emerging markets. However, emerging market growth has been steadily slowing as these markets mature. IDC now expects worldwide growth to be just 7.3% in 2008 before slipping into negative growth in 2009.
In recent months, a number of major industry players – including component suppliers, handset makers, and operators – have announced their concerns about handset volumes in 2009. Most have indicated that they expect a year-over-year decrease due to the flagging global economy.
"Nokia's announcement was the first sign of troubles to come," said Ryan Reith, senior analyst with IDC's Mobile Phone Tracker. "However, the real concerns set in with announcements from the chipset vendors who supply the industry. Qualcomm, Texas Instruments, and MediaTek are among some of the suppliers announcing reductions in manufacturing for the upcoming year. There is a lot of uncertainty about how the markets will fare and inventory levels will be more of a focus point then ever before."
The economic crunch has also affected consumer behavior, particularly consumers' plans to purchase new devices. With less disposable income available and other expenses competing for attention, consumers may choose to hold on to their current devices rather than replace or upgrade them at the next possible opportunity, usually when a service contract expires. As long as the device functions properly, consumers may put off the replacement decision until more funds are available. This shift in demand will reduce the need for devices from handset vendors, much in the same way that the shift in supply will reduce the availability of devices from handset vendors.
IDC does not expect the downturn in mobile phone shipments to stretch past 2009. By 2010, the worldwide mobile phone market will show signs of improvement as economic recovery plans will have taken effect. With more disposable income in hand, consumers should feel more comfortable buying a new handset, especially if the opportunity to purchase was delayed. Beyond that, further growth is expected, but at a slower pace compared to the strong double-digit growth experienced in the years prior to the decline.
Additionally, not all segments of the mobile phone market are expected to decline. IDC expects converged mobile devices – commonly referred to as smartphones – to grow 8.9% worldwide in 2009. This contrasts sharply against the negative growth expected for the entire mobile phone market. Beyond 2009, growth will return to double-digit territory, faster than the overall mobile phone market.
"Converged mobile devices remain a much sought-after option for many consumers," noted Ramon Llamas, senior analyst, Mobile Devices Technology and Trends. "Users have come to realize what these devices can do beyond voice telephony, especially when it comes to running applications. Take a look at how gaming, mapping and location, entertainment, news, and social networking applications for converged mobile devices have taken off, allowing users to do much more than just make phone calls. In response, handset vendors have been building their product and applications portfolios to catch this wave of opportunity."
Lower prices are also making converged mobile devices an attractive choice for consumers. It was not long ago that these devices cost well above the $200 price point with a two year contract. As prices have come down in recent quarters, these devices have become competitive alternatives to traditional mobile phones. Faced with the option of purchasing a converged mobile device at roughly the same price as a traditional mobile phone, consumers will be strongly tempted by the fully featured smartphone. Continued high demand and lower prices will keep this category growing, even as the overall market struggles.
U.S. and Worldwide Mobile Phone Shipment Growth by Device Type,
Region Device Type 2008 2009 2010
USA Converged Mobile Device (Smartphone) 75.7% 3.1% 28.2%
Traditional Mobile Phone -9.8% -11.6% -8.8%
Total Market -0.3% -8.7% -0.7%
Worldwide Converged Mobile Device (Smartphone) 27.0% 8.9% 24.0%
Traditional Mobile Phone 4.9% -3.8% 5.0%
Total Market 7.3% -2.2% 7.7%
Note: Percentages represent year-over-year growth.
Source: IDC, December 2008
Mobile Phones – These small, battery-powered, voice-centric devices utilize operator-provided cellular/PCS air interfaces for voice communication. They are designed primarily, in both form factor and feature set, for a compelling mobile telephony experience, but may also include text-messaging capability. Mobile phones may include a headset jack for hands-free operation as well as a variety of features, such as personal information management, multimedia, games, or office applications. Mobile phones exist at all points along the form factor, price point, and feature set continua.
Converged Mobile Devices – A subset of mobile phones, converged mobile devices feature a high-level operating system that enable the device to run third-party applications in addition to voice telephony. Examples of high-level operating systems include Android, BlackBerry, Linux, Mac OS X, Palm, Symbian, and Windows Mobile. Converged mobile devices share many features with traditional mobile phones, including personal information management, multimedia, games, and office applications, but the presence of a high-level operating system differentiates these devices from all others.
IDC is the premier global provider of market intelligence, advisory services, and events for the information technology, telecommunications, and consumer technology markets. IDC helps IT professionals, business executives, and the investment community make fact-based decisions on technology purchases and business strategy. More than 1,000 IDC analysts provide global, regional, and local expertise on technology and industry opportunities and trends in over 110 countries worldwide. For more than 44 years, IDC has provided strategic insights to help our clients achieve their key business objectives. IDC is a subsidiary of IDG, the world's leading technology media, research, and events company. You can learn more about IDC by visiting www.idc.com.
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