Smartphone Indicators provides a view into the sector’s current events through the lens of our monthly & quarterly research reports.
We share proprietary report data to highlight key milestones, emerging trends, growth opportunities and potential pitfalls.
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April Report Highlights
No Zero Sum Game
- Lockdowns from China’s COVID zero policy disrupting logistics and factory output, but key smartphone OEM/ODM factories largely unaffected with production lines running.
- Depressed consumer sentiment, however, is creating risk on the demand side and starting to impact inventories.
- Excessive build up could bring big headaches, especially for some Chinese brands with already high inventories.
- The biggest warning signs flashing at us:
- Our Monthly Smartphone OEM Sell-in vs Sell Through Report shows China inventories (weeks) at highest ever.
- The latest China consumption indexes declining to 2020 lockdown levels.
- COVID zero policy looks likely to last at least until CCP’s congress sometime in 2H.
The Pivot to Foldables
- When will the foldable smartphone form-factor become mainstream?
- Looking at the share of global foldable smartphone TAM we’re only forecasting 1.1% this year. And it’s likely to remain low-ish single digits through our forecast period.
- Perhaps more relevant is asking which vendor is pivoting fastest to foldable smartphones – and the obvious answer is Samsung.
- But the more interesting one is Apple.
iPhone Results Early Look: Fewer Bargains, More Margins
- We’re expecting good and bad news for Apple’s Jan-Mar results.
- The bad news is iPhone global volumes could shrink by low single-digits, impacted by a big YoY dip in US demand.
- The good news is the sales mix – more people are buying the latest flagship iPhone 13 than cheaper and older models.
- This adds more fuel to rumours around the company’s possible hardware leasing program. In the US, where the share of new iPhone buyers hit 80% during the period, hardware leasing seems like the next step in lowering iOS flagship ownership barriers well below $799.
- Our Monthly Market Pulse Flagship Model, February 2022 Edition provides an early look and full iPhone model sell-through breakdowns for the past 12 months, along with coverage of 200+ other key models.
Pump Up the Volumes: 2021 Global TWS (True Wireless Stereo) Hearables Unit Shipments
- True Wireless Stereo (TWS) hearables shipments hit a MASSIVE milestone in 2021, reaching 300m units.
- Beats from the East: Asia (ex-China) the biggest regional driver on strong sales in Japan/Korea which helped offset India sluggishness.
- Tougher at the top: TOP 5 brands dipped just below 50% share on leader Apple’s tepid volume growth.
Foldables: $999 Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 5G Hits the Sweet Spot With South Korean Consumers
- The big surprise in South Korea last year was the super successful launch of Samsung’s foldables.
- An extended view of the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3’s sales from our South Korea Smartphone Market Update, 2021, shows exactly how popular they were amongst domestic consumers; over the past few years only the S10 5G and Note 9 reached 1m unit sales faster.
- The uber-premium Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 did well too, outshining its sister the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra.
- Our domestic 2022 forecasts for the upcoming Galaxy Z 4 Series foldables have just been updated, and we see them performing similarly to the Galaxy S22 Series and iPhone 14 Series. In South Korea at least, foldable smartphones have officially arrived.
# of Months to 1m Unit Sales, Korea
|Model||Months||Starting Price*||Launch Date|
|Galaxy S10 5G||2||$1,299||Apr-19|
|Galaxy Note 9||3||$1,000||Aug-18|
|Galaxy Z Flip 3 5G||4||$999||Aug-21|
|Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G||4||$1,300||Aug-19|
|Galaxy S21 5G||5||$799||Jan-21|
|Galaxy Note 10 5G||5||$950||Aug-19|
|Galaxy Note 20 5G||8||$999||Aug-20|
|Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G||10||$1,300||Aug-20|
Monthly Market Pulse, February 2022 | April 3
The Ceiling’s the Limit
- After 16 months of >50% volume share, iPhone sales in the US dipped below the halfway mark for the first time since September 2020.
- A combination of factors – seasonality, slowing sales of older iPhones, Samsung Galaxy S22 pre-orders, Motorola outperformance – contributed to the dip.
- But looking at the chart, the triple peaks suggest Apple is meeting resistance – perhaps iOS has been testing the ceiling in the US.
- Luckily, the company is already exploring ways to grow laterally – recent headlines on Apple’s hardware leasing and financial services reflect how the company plans to broaden revenue sources while sticking to its core of improving customer experience.
- Our Market Pulse analysis shows similar dynamics in other developed markets so we expect Apple to expand financial services across devices, segments and regions.