- The number of active brands is down to almost 250 in 2023 so far from over 700 in 2017.
- The decline in the number of active brands is almost entirely coming from local brands.
- A maturing user base, improving device quality and recent industry headwinds are some of the reasons for the declining number of active brands.
At its peak in 2017, the global smartphone market saw more than 700 brands fiercely competing. Fast forward to 2023 and the number of active brands (that have recorded sell-through volumes) is down by two-thirds to almost 250, according to Counterpoint’s Global Handset Model Sales Tracker, which has been tracking sales of these brands across more than 70 key countries.
A maturing user base, improving device quality, longer replacement cycles, economic headwinds, supply-chain bottlenecks and major technological transitions such as 4G to 5G have gradually whittled down the number of active brands and their volumes over the years. For example, local smartphone brands, once known as “local kings”, like Micromax in India and Symphony in Bangladesh, have lost significant share or even exited over the last five years.
Decline of local brands
Strikingly, the decline in the number of active brands is coming largely from local brands, while the number of global brands has remained mostly consistent. Most local brands operate in lower price bands and in regions that have fragmented markets across wide geographies, like Asia-Pacific, Latin America and Middle East & Africa.
Brands lag in R&D and marketing efforts
In a rapidly evolving smartphone industry, small brands have struggled to keep up with big brands across many fronts. While big brands have continued to invest in R&D, manufacturing and capacity building, small brands have been largely dependent on white-label devices. Furthermore, large promotional and marketing events and big-name brand ambassador tie-ups from sports and movies are commonplace for big brands, which most small brands don’t have the resources to do.
Difficulty adapting to change
There were many other reasons which made the smaller local brands fail. Some of the key ones were:
- Inability to keep up with market demand for better specifications, design, brand value and ecosystem integration.
- Highly aggressive Chinese brandslike Xiaomi, OPPO and vivo.
- Industry headwinds like the COVID-19 pandemic and component shortages.
Going forward, the number of smartphone brands will continue to decrease, and large global brands will be in the best position to adapt to all the macroeconomic headwinds and technological transitions in the market.
We have prepared a much more detailed report on this subject. Leave us a message in the contact box to access the report. Topics covered in this report include:
- Lists of “local kings” who have exited the market.
- Market volume decline trends for the most prominent local kings.
- Recaps of the battles lost by local kings in major countries.
- Ideas for future trends in the smartphone market.