Photo: Reuters/Elijah Nouvelage

The current smartphone-driven tech cycle likely peaked in late 2015, the IMF says, as evidence emerges that the global market for handsets has become saturated.

Analysis published this week looked at smartphone exports from China, the volume of which started trending downward over the past two years. China’s domestic smartphone market declined for the first time ever in 2017, while Apple recorded a year-on-year decrease in iPhone sales in the fourth quarter.

Source: IMF World Economic Outlook, April 2018

“While the industry is still projecting increases in unit sales our analysis suggests that smartphone makers may have to count on price increases to support continued revenue growth,” according to a post on the IMF’s website.

“At the same time, Asia continues to gain market share in other, growing consumer electronics devices, including embedded automobile computers, smart appliances, and wearable devices,” the report found.

“Trend demand for South Korea semiconductor exports continues to accelerate, despite the slowdown in global smartphone sales. The underlying trend in electronic export orders also remains strong in Taiwan Province of China.”