Photo: Reuters/Elijah Nouvelage
Photo: Reuters/Elijah Nouvelage

The rapidly changing global smartphone market took a plunge in 2018, new research shows, with no signs of a turnaround in the near future.

Global smartphone shipment volume fell by 4.1% last year, according to research firm IDC, a dismal showing for an industry that has long been accustomed to rapid growth.

“Globally the smartphone market is a mess right now,” according to Ryan Reith, program vice president with IDC’s Worldwide Mobile Device Trackers.

“Outside of a handful of high-growth markets like India, Indonesia, Korea, and Vietnam, we did not see a lot of positive activity in 2018. We believe several factors are at play here, including lengthening replacement cycles, increasing penetration levels in many large markets, political and economic uncertainty, and growing consumer frustration around continuously rising price points.”

Those high-growth markets may have helped Chinese phone maker Huawei make inroads last year despite the headwinds facing the broader sector.

The company set a record in terms of unit shipments, topping 200 million, and even took over Apple as the world’s number two largest smartphone producer in the second quarter.

According to IDC, however, Huawei fell short of achieving that title for the full year.

The Chinese market, despite continuing to see some weakness, has rewarded local brands, with the top for brands – all of which are domestic – growing their market share from 66% to 78%, leaving even less room for the iPhone.

Apple’s reliance on premium, high-price point offerings is likely to continue to weigh on its device sales, the research showed. iPhone shipment volumes plunged 11.5% in the fourth quarter of last year, despite the recent release of three new models.

Huawei’s volumes, meanwhile, were up 33.6% in 2018.

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