back to article Worldwide smartphone shipments DOWN for first time ever

The global smartphone market is shrinking for the first time as choosey buyers in emerging markets hang on to their mobiles for longer. In Gartner’s Q4 sales stats, Samsung maintained a narrow lead in global volume shipments of smartphones – but every major (top five) vendor outside of those based in China saw unit shipments …

  1. James 51

    I'd love a note 8 but it is just so bloddy expensive. Any mention of how the cost of flagships are rocketing in that analysis? Features llike Bixby spyware and no removeably battery put me off too.

    1. Naselus

      Flagship sales have been falling for years, even as the market as a whole has been growing.

    2. djstardust

      I got the Note 8 but only because a 25% Vodafone discount made the price reasonable.

      It's a nice handset but the Note 4 was £569 so I don't see what the £300 difference is .... apart from greed and copying Apple of course.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As predicted ...

    same with PCs and tablets.

    The world has what they NEED. And it's hard to up the what they WANT with no new features.

    (See also radio, cars, television ...)

    1. Lee D

      Re: As predicted ...


      Pretty much when even the most luddite of people probably has a smartphone with camera, internet, games, movies, tv, music, satnav, compass, torch, spirit level, etc.etc.etc. then there's nowhere else to go and they aren't going to upgrade "just because" especially if all those things weren't what made them upgrade to a smartphone (which is most likely to be "to use WhatsApp to call people for free", "to check email", "to go on Facebook" and "because it's just as cheap to do all that as buy a normal phone", according to a brief survey of the people who come to me in that position).

      Gimme something new and I'll think about it. And a removable battery. And a headphone socket. The Samsung "this phone can also be an Ubuntu Linux desktop" is intriguing to me, but niche. Hell, stick a fold out joystick on it and licence a bunch of retro games and the kids would probably be all over it. But without something new, it's just a case of "I'll buy when mine is bad enough for me to notice", whether that's because it's broken, slow, can't do something I need, etc.

      1. AS1

        Re: As predicted ...

        Confirmed Luddite here. The feature phone has several advantages over the smartphone:

        1. Discrete, unlike the current smartphones that make the n-gage look svelte.

        2. Long battery life.

        3. FM radio for data free streamed music all day long.

        4. Cockroach reliability. Only one I've broken so far was used as body armour in a motorbike accident; severely crushed, it lost several dozen pixels but soldiered on. It was replaced more from the deformed battery (the case's internal structure could be seen in the battery's casing) than loss of functionality.

        5. £15 to replace.

        1. TReko

          I agree, but...

          good luck keeping the feature phone going as 2G networks get shut down

      2. big_D Silver badge

        Re: As predicted ...

        Exactly, Lee D.

        I just upgraded, because taking a picture was delaying up to 6 seconds after pressing the "shutter". If it had still been usably fast, I'd not have upgraded. That said, I saved myself around 30% by going for a new Huawei Mate 10 Pro as opposed to a Pixel 2+ or Samsung Note 8.

        My other half wanted something smaller and cheaper, she got a Huawei P-Smart for 250€, to replace her old Nexus. To be honest, after the fact, the Mate 10 Pro is excellent, but I could have probably save 50% of my money and also have gone with the P-Smart, but I wanted the bigger display.

        @AS1 (quickly touches wood), the only phone I've broken was a Nokia feature phone, I was playing on the floor with a friend's kids and rolled over on it, display completely messed up, had to pay for a replacement screen (100€, as opposed to 600€ for a replacement feature phone, which tells you how long ago that was!).

      3. jelabarre59

        Re: As predicted ...

        Pretty much when even the most luddite of people probably has a smartphone with camera...

        Basically. My smartphone is a 5yr old Moto Droid Razr, which my wife had been using all that time. Her father upograded his phone, so gave her his old Sammy S5. And the only reason I took over using her old phone was because my flip/feature phone was starting to spontaneously shut down or reboot for no apparent reason. I went through and disabled as much of the unremovable built-in crap as I could, and leave the mobile data disabled (if I need to sync, I'll do it on my home WiFi). At most I might brick it in a month or two when I try to flash it with LinkageOS, otherwise it'll run until I can't get a new battery for it, or Verizon Worthless decides they won't allow it on their network anymore ("what, 3G??? We disabled THAT when we implemented 8G...").

    2. a_yank_lurker

      Re: As predicted ...

      @AC - The behavior of all markets as they mature is for sales growth to stall and possibly drop for awhile as the market reaches equilibrium. Pretty much any smartphone will have the features I need either already builtin/installed or with an app from the app store. I think for most new features are not going to compelling reasons to upgrade. I plan to keep my recently purchased phones for at least 2 or 3 years before considering replacements. It will be driven by physical wear-and-tear not new features.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The World can only take so much landfill so this is a relief.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The World can only take so much landfill so this is a relief.

      What rubbish. The materials came out of a hole in the ground, they can go back into a hole in the ground. You can argue the toss over leachates, and the fossil energy embodied in the devices, but all people are doing with landfill is redistributing a few minerals. Even if you don't have a convenient hole in the ground, you just build a hill.

      1. Tim Seventh

        "all people are doing with landfill is redistributing a few minerals."

        Surely if landfill is a distribution of 'minerals', then pollution is also a distribution of 'minerals'. Except we also lose land when those 'minerals' are place, and consumer those 'minerals' indirectly through plants, animals, air and water.

        If you want to really know how bad it is, ask one of those who lives next to one.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      This may come as a shock, but the earth is actually quite large.

  4. James O'Shea Silver badge

    Will not be replacing any time soon

    I have multiple Apple iDevices: a iPhone SE (the Donny Trump iPhone, the one for small hands!) and a iPhone 6 (not, repeat not, a 6+, the iPhone for gorillas) and a iPad Air 2. The SE replaced a previous iPhone, the 6 replaced a ZTE Android which had replaced, briefly, a Samsung non-smart phone. I’ll currently on the road and typing this on the iPad, though using a 3rd-party Bluetooth keyboard instead of the (utterly useless) Apple soft keyboard. Apple will not be making new sales to me until these devices die. The 6 and the SE will get new batteries thanks to the Apple battery replacement for $30 program, ending in December 2018. That should push their lives out to another three or four years. I got the 6 in 2014, and the SE two years later, which would mean that I’d have the 6 for 7 to 8 years and the SE for 5 to 6 years. I’ll probably get an iPad Pro later this year or next year, especially if the new model iPad Pro ships with 5G cellular and 802.11ad or af or whatever, but I currently see no reason whatsoever to get new phones. None. Zero. In particular, Apple seems to have abandoned the small form factor, so I may end up holding onto the SE for a long time, even if the replacement battery starts to go and I have to get a replacement for the replacement. I _like_ the small form factor. I don’t give a damn about headphone jacks on the phone; I play music using the iPad, usually attached to some external system or another, typically in the car. I don’t give a damn about SD cards; I buy iDevices with enough space to do what I want in the first place, currently 64 GB on all three, though one reason why I’m thinking about replacing the iPad is that 64 is getting kinda small on it, so I’ll step up in size. One reason why I haven’t already got a iPad Pro is that Apple is being greedy and no longer has an iPad Pro model with 128 GB, just models with 64 (which I know is now too small) and 256 (which costs too much and doesn’t give me features I care about other than more space) and 512 (which is insane, it wasn’t that long ago that I had a serious desktop system which had 250 GB storage). Nah, I’ll wait for 5G and 11ad or af or whatever. And I may wait a little longer until the price comes down a little.

    I have looked at Samsung’s various Android offerings. Their small form factor offerings are underwhelming, their large form factor offerings don’t offer enough features that I care about to make me abandon the iDevice ecosystem. Unless this changes I’ll be staying with Apple. And unless Apple comes up with something that I care about, I’ll be staying with the existing iDevices, except maybe the iPad. And even that can wait for a while.

  5. Tom 38 Silver badge

    Not surprised Oppo are falling

    The OnePlus used to be a "Flagship killer", but now the 5T is just a small discount to true flagships, and a pony more than a Huawei P10. If I was going to buy a phone tomorrow, it would be a Xiaomi 5c (8 core, 2.2GHz, 3GB/64GB, £150), but I won't because my OnePlus 2, reflashed with LineageOS runs great.

  6. Nik 2

    OS vs OEM market Share

    According to this article, Apple has 17.9% of the handset market, but iOS has only 14.4% of the OS market. Does that mean that 1 in 6 Apple phones ships with Android installed, or that 20% of the smartphones sold without shipped with no operating system at all?

    1. Radio

      Re: OS vs OEM market Share

      The 17.9% is Q4 only, whereas if I understand the article correctly, by the time they discuss the OS, they're talking about the entirity of 2017.

  7. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    In other news…

    The pope shits in the woods, predicts Gartner.

    No reason to expect Apple's sales to pick up this quarter especially if the other report about disappointing sales of the Apple Galaxy X turn out to be true. They'll be fucking coining it though.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: In other news…

      Given that they've launched innumerable varieties and sizes of handsets, and all the iTat devices, they might struggle to grow hardware revenues as fast as the market have come to expect. Which means that services income will have to grow.

      The obvious thing, given the very low price elasticity of their customers is some carefully crafted gouging of services customers, and a big push to get more customers paying services subscriptions, and the hope that the Homepod will open up new opportunities for selling services. This time last year Apple were reportedly starting to look for exclusive video content, they'll have to up their game, and partner with studios and producers. Amazon (being device agnostic) have it easier here than either Google or Apple, because for a studio, going exclusive with either would exclude roughly half the US market. Google can sell on Apple devices (eg Netflix) if Apple permit them, but relatively few Android buyers will want to pay a premium for (say) AppleFilms (tm).

      Over the next two years, I think we'll see Apple still being immensely profitable, but become even more diffuse, and finding new high margin growth increasingly difficult - the outcome of replacing Jobs with a supply chain plodder.

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: In other news…

        Google is already a services company which makes it pretty device-agnostic.

        Apple's biggest fear must be if anyone challenged their walled garden for services and that is as likely to be Amazon and Netflix as it is Google. Though that kind of challenge is unlikely to have much success in the current cartel love-in that is America.

      2. mosw

        Re: In other news…

        "The obvious thing, given the very low price elasticity of their customers is some carefully crafted gouging of services customers"

        Maybe Apple will ride the wave of built-in browser ad-blocking and start doing ad-substitutions. Swipe some of Googles ongoing revenues. Not an Apple fan and not something I would endorse but the walled garden makes it possible.

  8. maaen


    I would never buy a phone if I am unable to remove the battery in an instant and replace it with a fresh battery and I hope that a growing number of folks around the world feel similarly.I bought into Samsung Galaxy Notes 1,2,3 and 4 and stopped at Note 4. I could neverbuy into Notes 5 or 7 or 8.

  9. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    Only reason I have a J3 phone now is because my antique S2 has a dodgy power connector and I was down to 1 usb lead it worked with .....

    But not bad for over 5 years constant use

    Hope this one lasts as long...

  10. Roger Ramjet

    That's quite enough.

    Saturation point.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hey maybe those tax breaks, incentives and subsidies used for these fondle slabs can be used for ... I dunno "FREAKING HELPING THE WORLD!!!". Hey space stations or satellite/planetary bases to help deal with the worlds over population. Or maybe use this money to do fundamental scientific research on real ways to combat climate change, cause lets face it the "screw the consumer" approach to climate change we have been taking has not and will not solve that problem... You know the kind of research that can be used to create devices that can sequester CO2 and potentially reuse it... Or maybe use the money for cleaning up the environment (although CO2 seems to be the only thing on politicos brains there are many other pollutants that are just as horrible... heavy metals, toxic waste, hormones, radio active materials (think those cell phones work without radio active material...))

    Heck we could just use it to repair the crumbling infrastructure but there are many things that humanity can aspire to other than a thinner/bigger screened phone. Hell a new exotic power source is less of a waste of money... thorium reactor, LENR, CANR, LANR, NanorJet, zeropoint ... if you bring energy sovereignty to the world you have solve most problems that exist today, especially if it is clean energy/renewable ...

  12. Toilet Duk

    You can buy a perfectly good smartphone from a Chinese manufacturer you've never heard of for £120 on Banggood, Aliexpress etc. 12% the cost of an IPhone X and 95% as good.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yea well

    I have a nearly 8 year old smartphone and below are the reasons why I haven't replaced it yet

    Making/receiving calls - ✓

    texts/MMSs - ✓

    photo and video recording - ✓

    internet - ✓

    email - ✓

    satnav/GPS navigation - ✓

    apps which I need and use daily - ✓

  14. DenTheMan

    Apple are fine for the next two years but Samsung on the other hand

    When you realise that most iPhones in use do not even have a 720p screen, future good Apple sales are a certainty.

    Samsung on the other hand, even surpasses the iPhone X with its ancient Galaxy 6. So future big sales are more uncertain.

    1. Nate Amsden Silver badge

      Re: Apple are fine for the next two years but Samsung on the other hand

      obviously much harder to justify switching from Apple to Android or vise versa if you are faced with having to re-buy a lot of apps and/or games assuming they exist on the other platform.

      Screen resolutions outside of VR headsets don't seem to make any difference anymore.

      My daily drivers are still galaxy note 3 (main one is android 4.4 which I prefer, my 2nd Note 3 is Android 5).

      I also have a Galaxy note 4 which is really only used when I travel, has a 256GB SD card and with MHL I use it to watch videos either directly or on TVs (I do the same with my Note 3s, this is just another 256GB of storage).

      Galaxy note 3: 2,073,600 pixels

      Galaxy note 4: 3,110,400 pixels

      I really can't tell a difference between the two side by side. Certainly no difference in daily use web browsing, video watching, etc. I'm sure if I looked really closely I could see, but just normal usage, no way.

      The phone I had previous to Note 3 was a HP Pre3 which had 384,000 pixels. Now THAT was a big difference. More than 5 TIMES the pixels between Note 3 and Pre3. Not even 40% more on Note 4 vs Note 3.

      Now jump to more modern phones, of which the Sony XZ1(with Android 8)is the most modern phone in the household - that too is the same resolution as my 4 year old Note 3.

      The google Pixel 2 has barely more pixels than the Note 4. For screens this small it just doesn't matter outside of VR headsets using the phones.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like