MEA Smartphone Shipments Drop 12% YoY in 2022 to Reach Lowest Level Since 2015

  • MEA smartphone shipments retreated 18.4% YoY in Q4 2022 and 12.1% YoY in 2022.
  • At 148 million units, 2022 shipments were the lowest since 2015.
  • Samsung performed resiliently in 2022, with shipments and market share increasing YoY.
  • Transsion Group’s 2022 shipments dropped 13% YoY. This was mainly due to a 27% drop of itel.
  • Xiaomi saw a flat year but much better performance than in 2021.
  • 5G shipments increased 47% YoY to account for 18% of the overall shipments.

London, Boston, Toronto, New Delhi, Hong Kong, Beijing, Taipei, Seoul – February 23, 2023

Smartphone shipments in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region fell 12.1% YoY in 2022 to 148 million units, the lowest shipment level since 2015, according to the latest research from Counterpoint’s Market Monitor Service. After a bright start to the year, the rise in energy and agricultural goods prices caused by the Ukraine war dampened consumer sentiment in the region, with the macroeconomic situation gradually worsening as the year went on.

Looking at the fourth quarter, smartphone shipments dropped 18.4% YoY, a slightly better reading than the record low of the 20.4% drop recorded in Q3 2022. Consumer sentiment may have picked up marginally as the inflationary pressure and foreign currency headwinds receded. Still, the market environment remained very challenging.

Commenting on the market’s performance, Senior Analyst Yang Wang said, “The MEA smartphone market closed the year with another tough quarter. Much of the difficulties, such as high inflation rates, energy and food prices, and depreciating domestic currencies against the US dollar, were caused by factors outside of the control of market participants. With the drop in consumer sentiment, OEMs were put under enormous pressure and had to take drastic measures such as destocking, cutting marketing and channel spending, and taking a very careful approach to pricing.”

Source: Counterpoint Research Market Monitor, Q4 2022
Notes: Xiaomi includes POCO and Redmi; OPPO includes OnePlus; Figures may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

Market leader Samsung saw YoY volume and market share growth in 2022, a terrific performance given the market realities. This was due to the success of the Galaxy A series in capturing the market for aspirational upgraders, particularly those that may be getting their first 5G devices. The company also benefitted from a significantly improved supply chain position, giving distributors clarity and certainty in a time of turbulence.

Transsion Group brands continued to take the MEA region’s biggest share of smartphone shipments, with an unchanged market share of 32%. However, the company endured a volatile year, with TECNO and itel both shedding shipment volumes in double digits due to exposure to the price-sensitive entry segment, while Infinix’s strong momentum from the first half of 2022 retreated towards the end of the year. Aggressive destocking initiatives mostly bore fruit, as TECNO and Infinix returned to launching higher-end devices during the shopping season.

Xiaomi finished the year at the third spot among OEMs in the MEA region. It was a relatively successful year for the company with volume and market share gains. Supply issues largely disappeared, and the company saw good traction in the mid-range segment, particularly for the Redmi Note 11 and Redmi 10 series. Xiaomi is expected to take the competition to Samsung’s A series as it broadens the availability of affordable 5G devices across the region.

Apple’s shipments dropped YoY, but the brand saw its market share increase due to broadened distribution in the region and the success of the iPhone 13 series. The iPhone 14 series launch has not been as successful as the iPhone 13 series. However, sales have concentrated towards the higher-end iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max models, thus replicating Apple’s value gains seen in other more developed markets.


Source: Counterpoint Research Market Monitor, Q4 2022

One of the spotlights in the MEA smartphone market in 2022 was the growth of the 5G segment. 5G smartphone shipments grew 47% to reach an 18% share of the overall shipments against our forecast of 16.5% at the beginning of 2022. While 5G networks are only available in the GCC countries and certain pockets of Africa’s urban areas, the enthusiasm for 5G devices has been noted across the largest markets. Samsung, having overtaken Apple as the biggest 5G OEM in the region, is well positioned to grow further with its large portfolio of mid-range 5G A-series devices. Xiaomi is also seeing momentum for its mid-range devices, and we are likely to see Transsion brands TECNO and Infinix make a serious play in the 5G market in 2023. While globally 5G smartphone prices are coming down due to the availability of more affordable models, the proliferation of 5G devices in MEA will actually boost the average selling price (ASP) in the region, as customers upgrade to more sophisticated devices. This, in turn, is likely to increase the dollar value of the MEA smartphone market, despite little to no growth in volume expected in 2023.

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Counterpoint Technology Market Research is a global research firm specializing in products in the TMT (technology, media and telecom) industry. It services major technology and financial firms with a mix of monthly reports, customized projects and detailed analyses of the mobile and technology markets. Its key analysts are seasoned experts in the high-tech industry.

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US Smartphone Inventory at Manageable Levels; Resilient Demand Despite Inflationary Pressures

There have been worries about high global smartphone inventory and weak demand due to high inflation levels. While this might be the story in other regions, the US smartphone market has shown resilience through Q2 2022. Data from the Counterpoint US Monthly Smartphone Channel Share Tracker shows the US smartphone market was down 4% MoM but up 2% YoY in May.

Smartphone inventories in the US are higher than last year. However, 2021 may not be the best YoY comparison as the industry was going through 4G LTE chip shortages last year. Smartphone inventories in the US fluctuate between 4-6 weeks but they can go even higher during new device launches and holiday season channel fills.

We believe that the inventories are normal at present given the seasonality of demand, especially ahead of the back-to-school promotional season. The demand has been steady, driven by strong carrier promotions, especially in postpaid channels.

iOS, Android Inventory Levels in US Smartphone Market 

Source: Counterpoint’s US Monthly Smartphone Inventory Tracker

Android vs iOS inventory

Apple has the fastest factory-to-consumer shipping timelines among smartphone OEMs. The iOS inventory was very low at the end of 2021 as the iPhone 13 remained in high demand. The inventory started to increase as the initial demand settled and supply improved. Sell-in continued to improve until March 2022 but dropped back again in April due to China lockdowns. We expect Apple’s Q2 2022 sell-in to remain flat YoY.

Android inventory levels have been higher than in previous years but still manageable. Samsung’s inventory went up in January 2022 driven by the Galaxy S22 series shipments. The Galaxy S22 Ultra accounted for nearly half of the Galaxy S22 series shipments. The Galaxy A13 5G, which is the cheapest 5G device in Samsung’s portfolio, also came in large volumes. Motorola recorded high volumes in Q4 2021 driven by new launches but cooled off in Q1 2021. The brand, too, was impacted by China lockdowns in April 2022 but picked up quickly in May 2022. The Walmart reset was another driver of higher inventories at the end of Q2 2022. This was further supplemented by the launch of new devices from TCL and Nokia HMD, especially in Tracfone channels.

Low-end Android market has growth potential

High smartphone inventory is mostly driven by the low-end sub-$300 Android devices in prepaid and national retail channels. This is manageable ahead of the back-to-school promotional season as the demand is likely to pick up. Besides, with rising inflation, we might see the demand shift back from postpaid to prepaid as consumers shy away from premium postpaid plans and two-year lock-ins. This would be a change from the previous 10 quarters but could further boost demand at the low end.

Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Dish continue to build their prepaid brands. Verizon has strengthened its prepaid presence with the Tracfone acquisition. It now owns Tracfone, Straight Talk, Total Wireless, Net10 and Visible. AT&T, too, enjoys a strong prepaid presence with its Cricket brand. But Dish is likely to be the dark horse that can disrupt the competition in national retail with acquisitions of Republic Wireless, Ting and Gen Mobile. T-Mobile has added national retail doors and its prepaid brand Metro by T-Mobile will remain competitive.

Lastly, as the carriers shut down CDMA networks, they will continue to drive demand for low-cost 4G or entry-level 5G devices. Verizon’s acquisition of Tracfone will drive device upgrades due to compatibility issues as some Tracfone subscribers will migrate from AT&T and T-Mobile’s networks. In addition, DISH must move its Boost subscriber base from T-Mobile’s network to its new MVNO partner, AT&T.

Overall, retail trends in the US market continue to hold strong despite inflationary pressures. Smartphone demand has proved to be resilient both through COVID-19 and the steep inflationary growth of 2021. Though the market can change quickly, early indications are that the US market will see about 3% YoY growth in H2 2022 with a strong Q4 holiday season.

Nokia HMD set to gain from Walmart summer reset

In late Spring or early Summer each year, Walmart refreshes its lineup of smartphones. This year, the refresh came in June, and along with it, OEM competition at the retailer should intensify. The biggest winners of the refresh appear to be Nokia HMD and Samsung.

Walmart’s sweet spot is the sub-$100 segment and its consumers are very sensitive to price. Nokia HMD launched two new devices through Straight Talk and Tracfone, two of the most popular prepaid brands available at Walmart, the C100 and C200. The devices retail for $39.99 and $69.99 respectively, placing them squarely in Walmart’s sweet spot. While the specifications and design of these devices are unlikely to wow anyone, they pack the necessary power and battery life to meet the needs of users in this market, and more importantly, they do it at a very low price. Nokia HMD also gained shelf space at Walmart with its Nokia 2760, a popular feature phone due to its $29.99 price tag. One sales representative interviewed at a Walmart in Washington, D.C. reported that the device was the best-selling model at his location.

Nokia HMD C100 and C200


Samsung also gained from Walmart’s recent refresh, as prepaid brands changed-up their portfolios of Galaxy A-series devices with the latest Galaxy A03s, Galaxy A13 LTE, and Galaxy A13 5G. The Galaxy A02s and Galaxy A12, which were major hits with prepaid brands in 2021, and up until the refresh in 2022, are largely absent from shelves now, though Walmart stores across the country will be selling through any inventory they have on hand at discounted prices.

Galaxy A03s and A13 5G

TCL also had a new device on shelves at Walmart following the refresh, the TCL 30 Z, which is offered through Cricket Wireless, AT&T Prepaid, Straight Talk, and Tracfone for $79.99. This adds another TCL device to Walmart’s shelves, which should help the brand continue to drive strong sales in the channel alongside its popular A3 and A3x devices, which will now have to compete with the Nokia C100 and C200.

Each of these brands could face trouble in the coming months, however, as inflation related to the conflict in Ukraine eats away at consumers wallets, especially in the low-end of the market where consumers are the most price sensitive. When surveying sales representatives at Walmart, reports of inventory piling up was mentioned, as consumers decide to hold-off on new smartphone purchases if they’re able to. As prepaid demand cools, each of the brands mentioned above will be impacted.


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Europe Smartphone Market in Q3 2021: Samsung Holds on Despite Challenging Climate

London, Boston, Toronto, New Delhi, Beijing, Hong Kong, Taipei, Seoul – November 3, 2021

Europe’s smartphone market appears to have largely recovered from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, although sales are now being impacted by the ongoing chip shortage. Q3 2021 sales were only marginally down (-1%) compared to the same period last year, but were 4% down versus Q2 2021.

Some vendors have had a great year. Counterpoint Research Associate Director Jan Stryjak said, “Xiaomi, Apple and OPPO have gained significant share over the last year. Xiaomi continued to grow well across most European markets while OPPO gained well in Western Europe, helped along by its recent merger with OnePlus. Apple, meanwhile, was boosted by the launch of the iPhone 13 towards the end of the quarter. The iPhone 12 was launched in early Q4 2020. Samsung retained its top spot having largely recovered from its supply woes earlier on in the year. But it was still down both annually and sequentially. Having said that, it could have been worse had it not been for the popularity of the Galaxy Z Flip 3, particularly in Western Europe.”

Europe Smartphone Sales, Q3 2021
Europe smartphone sales: Q3 2021

Stryjak added, “realme is one of the fastest growing brands in Europe and has firmly established itself as a top five vendor with strong sales in Russia, Spain and Italy. vivo is also growing fast, albeit from a smaller base, while Motorola and Nokia are staging a comeback. HONOR also has set sights on the European market in the hopes of a reversal of fortunes with its first major launch in the region in over a year in October.”

The end of the quarter was a mixed bag for Xiaomi and Apple. Xiaomi took a big hit in September 2021 due to some significant component constraints. The iPhone 13 launch was a big success for Apple. Despite going on sale towards the end of September, the iPhone 13 appeared to be more popular than last year’s iPhone 12. If it can keep up with demand (which seems to be a challenge in some markets), Apple may well be in for a record-breaking Q4 in Europe.

Samsung Recovered in Q3 2021 While Xiaomi Suffered
Europe smartphone market: Samsung recovered in Q3 2021 while Xiaomi suffered



Counterpoint Technology Market Research is a global research firm specializing in products in the TMT (technology, media and telecom) industry. It services major technology and financial firms with a mix of monthly reports, customized projects and detailed analyses of the mobile and technology markets. Its key analysts are seasoned experts in the high-tech industry.

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US Smartphone Market Down 6% YoY in Q4 2020, but Apple, Samsung Grow

Boston, Denver, Toronto, London, Hong Kong, New Delhi, Beijing, Taipei, Seoul – February 1, 2021

The US smartphone market saw a 6% YoY decline in sales in Q4 2020 as COVID-19 continued to impact the economy, according to Counterpoint’s latest data from the US Channel Share Tracker. Apple and Samsung were the only OEMs to see positive growth in the quarter, thanks to new launches and a strong demand for premium devices during the holiday season. Despite the overall negative growth, there is good momentum going into 2021. Just as in Q3 2020, the market remained on the road to recovery in Q4.

QoQ growth was at 24% due to record high iPhone sales and a strong demand for Samsung Galaxy devices. Apple grew 14% YoY despite a delayed iPhone 12 launch while Samsung gained 5% YoY.

Counterpoint Research US Smartphone Market YoY Growth by OEM, Q4 2020

US Mobile Devices and Carrier Strategies Director Jeff Fieldhack said, “Q4 2020 was a particularly challenging quarter for many OEMs, especially those who manufacture devices for the prepaid and lower price band markets. With COVID-19 still showing record number of US cases, there were over 10.7 million unemployed people at the end of 2020. The economic effect of this can be seen in the negative growth of many OEMs in the quarter. Congress had not yet approached a new round of stimulus checks and unemployment benefits were set to expire, which lowered demand in the sub-$300 smartphone market. On the other hand, premium devices did well in the quarter. There was a pent-up demand in the higher price bands as customers spent some of their savings on new gadgets during the holiday period.”

Research Analyst Maurice Klaehne added, “We did see two bright spots in the market. Apple had a very strong YoY growth period, even with a delayed and staggered iPhone 12 launch. Demand for new iPhones outpaced supply in many cases as carriers had good promotional offers for both switchers and upgraders, something that is not as frequent. AT&T’s upgrade offers allowed customers to trade in older devices for discounts of up to $799, effectively making the iPhone 12 a free device with a qualifying unlimited plan and trade-in. Initial wait times for the Pro models, especially the iPhone 12 Pro Max, spanned close to three weeks. Given this strong demand for new iPhones and supply shortages in Q4 2020, we expect sales to spill over into Q1 2021.”

Commenting on Samsung’s successful quarter, Senior Research Analyst Hanish Bhatia said, “Samsung had a strong quarter as well, mainly due to the success of the Samsung S20 FE 5G. The OEM even launched a 256GB variant in the quarter to meet further demand from customers looking to buy a sub-$1,000 device. Especially during this COVID-19 period, customers are looking to spend less money, but still want specifications of flagship devices. Trade-in offers become especially appealing when the monthly bill does not increase by more than $10-$15. Looking ahead to 2021, the launch of new Samsung Galaxy S21 addresses the pricing issue as each device is $200 less expensive than the S20 series. However, January and February tend to be a lull in the market, and with Apple’s current momentum, there will be less opportunities for Samsung to capitalize on.”


Counterpoint Technology Market Research is a global research firm specializing in products in the TMT (technology, media and telecom) industry. It services major technology and financial firms with a mix of monthly reports, customized projects and detailed analyses of the mobile and technology markets. Its key analysts are seasoned experts in the high-tech industry.

Analyst Contacts:

Maurice Klaehne

Jeff Fieldhack

Hanish Bhatia

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Nokia Phones Lead the Trust Rankings

Counterpoint Research trust rankings are based on four pillars: software, security, build quality, and enterprise-recommended devices.

  • This is the second successive year where Nokia phones lead the global rankings in providing the fastest software and security updates with the highest share of portfolio recommended for enterprises.
  • Nokia phones lead across the price tiers in providing the fastest software and security updates; Nokia phones are also joint first in providing the latest software updates across their portfolio.
  • Nokia phones also lead in build quality by applying tougher tests than the industry average.

 Seoul, Hong Kong, New Delhi, Beijing, London, Buenos Aires, San Diego

October 27th, 2020

HMD Global, the home of Nokia phones, leads the Counterpoint Research 2020 trust rankings based on the four pillars of software, security updates, build quality, and devices recommended for enterprises. These pillars comprise various weighted criteria with a comparative analysis done for the leading Android smartphone brands. The findings are a part of Counterpoint Research’s latest whitepaper titled “Nokia Phones Lead the Trust Rankings based on Software, Security Updates and Build Quality”

Highlighting the whitepaper findings, VP & Research Director, Peter Richardson, noted, “The COVID-19 pandemic has made the world even more digitally connected than before. With smartphones being devices that are always-on and connected, they are more vulnerable to cyberattacks which are growing both in frequency and severity. This makes software and security updates for Android smartphones an critical aspect. Due to the pandemic, there have been changes in the work environment with many more people working remotely. This situation calls for an enterprise-grade security solution for data security, to block malware, and to prevent things like phishing attacks. For the second year in a row, Nokia phones have topped our rankings in providing the most comprehensive software and security updates and it has the highest share of portfolio recommended for enterprise use. The performance of Nokia phones continues to be a competitive advantage over the rest of the smartphone brands in the Android ecosystem. 98% of Android smartphone brands still offer inconsistent software and security updates or none at all. OnePlus also did well by providing faster software updates to all its devices currently selling in the market followed by Samsung and realme.”

Exhibit 1: Android OS Version Share within Key OEMs’ Portfolio

Counterpoint WP Android OS Version Share within Key OEMs’ Portfolio
Source: Counterpoint Research White Paper: “Nokia Phones Lead the Trust Rankings based on Software, Security Updates and Build Quality”

* Models older than three years not considered, Android Go variants not a part of the study

In a crowded smartphone market, every manufacturer is trying hard to differentiate its offering from its competitors. From design and build quality, to screen size and the number of cameras, a lot goes into this effort to differentiate. The software that the smartphone runs on is also an important consideration. Consumers should expect it to be updated regularly to ensure that potential security vulnerabilities are kept at bay and new features are delivered as they become available.

Commenting on the performance of smartphone brands, Global Content Manager, Ritesh Bendre, highlighted, “Some brands focus on keeping their products up-to-date, while others only issue software and security updates after a considerable delay. Regular software and security updates helps not just the overall device experience, but also helps devices retain their value over time. Surprisingly, there are top 10 smartphone manufacturers that don’t have any clear strategy to inform customers whether their devices are eligible for security and software updates. We think this issue will become increasingly important as consumers keep their smartphones for longer and rely on them more. Nokia and OnePlus devices have done well here.”

Exhibit 2: Security Patch Frequency Share for Top Manufacturers

Counterpoint Security Patch Frequency Share for Top Manufacturers
Source: Counterpoint Research White Paper: “Nokia Phones Lead the Trust Rankings based on Software, Security Updates and Build Quality”

* Models older than three years not considered, Android Go variants not a part of the study

Commenting on build quality results, Associate Director, Tarun Pathak commented, “The build quality pillar was evaluated on several criteria including product robustness, force measurement, drop and impact, fatigue, wear and scratch, thermal tests, moisture and liquid tests, and others which included both qualitative and quantitative observations. We found that Nokia phones undergo tougher tests than the industry average. We therefore concluded that, when considered alongside the faster software and security updates the strong build quality means Nokia phones will last the test of time which is increasingly important at a time when global device replacement cycles are getting longer, now approaching 30 months.”

Exhibit 3: Nokia Phones Go Through Tougher Tests Than Industry Average

Counterpoint Nokia Phones Go Through Tougher Tests Than Industry Average
Source: Counterpoint Research White Paper: “Nokia Phones Lead the Trust Rankings based on Software, Security Updates and Build Quality”


Counterpoint Technology Market Research is a global research firm specializing in Technology products in the TMT industry. It services major technology firms and financial firms with a mix of monthly reports, customized projects and detailed analysis of the mobile and technology markets. Its key analysts are experts in the industry with an average tenure of 13 years in the high-tech industry.

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Analyst Contacts:

Peter Richardson

Tarun Pathak

Ritesh Bendre

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IFA2019 – Mid-Range Smartphones Get Some Much-Needed Attention

In the smartphone market, a lot of emphasis is given to flagship products – they are the ones that tend to receive the first release of new technologies and are therefore championed by opinion-formers. But at IFA2019, the mid-range products were more prominent, and this is a good thing.

Mid-range is 40% of volume

Products with a wholesale price of between US$200 and US$800 account for ~40% of global volume. Even markets like the US, which has traditionally been split between high-end and low-end, is now seeing growth in mid-range price bands.

5G arriving fast to mid-range

With 150 designs already underway, or launched, Qualcomm is the undisputed 5G leader. One of the key announcements at IFA was delivered during Qualcomm’s keynote address by company President, Christiano Amon. He revealed that 5G capabilities are coming to its Snapdragon 7 and 6 series starting in 2020. These are mid-range application processors used to power many of the products that form the 40% of volume. And while 5G devices built around these processors will likely be more costly than non-5G versions, they will also fall solidly within the mid-range.

Huawei – 5G powerhouse, that’s losing its power

Richard Yu gave one of his typically upbeat presentations where he announced two key products – the Kirin 990 5G SoC and the Kirin A1 which is designed for wearables. Huawei claims it’s the first Bluetooth and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) chip to support version 5.1.

The Kirin 990 is a powerhouse chipset based on the TSMC 7nm FinFet + EUV process. It incorporates the modem to provide a single chip solution – though only for sub-6GHz frequency ranges for now, though it does support both Non-Standalone (NSA) and Standalone (SA) 5G network types.

Huawei joins with Samsung that launched the Exynos 980 single-chip solution, and will likely be outflanked by Qualcomm’s forthcoming Snapdragon 865.

Huawei Kirin 990 5G SoC

However, Huawei continued to ignore the massive elephant in the room that will likely crush Huawei’s consumer business – the trade ban by the US that means its next product – the Mate 30, that will be powered by the Kirin 990, likely won’t launch, natively, with Google’s GMS services, forcing consumers to have to side-load the services. It also means that the operating system will not be supported with updates and security patches throughout the product life. For many consumers and many operators, this will be too difficult to contemplate buying the product. We, therefore, expect that Huawei will continue to suffer share losses in the market.

Huawei’s misfortune opens door

As Huawei suffers a traumatic loss of market share, it opens the door to others to take advantage of the vacuum it creates.

HMD Nokia has been flat-lining in market share terms in the smartphone market. It has done well in feature phones, but while that’s good, the market for feature phones will inevitably gradually decline, so it’s crucial that its smartphone business flourishes.

HMD Nokia launched two new smartphones as updates to its 6 and 7 series – the 6.2 and 7.2.

Both include innovative technology from Pixelworks that efficiently upscales content to HD on the fly. This means that the products can be spec’d with cost-efficient screens and application processors (a Snapdragon 636 on the Nokia 6.2 and a Snapdragon 660 on the 7.2) but deliver performance equivalent to more costly products. Both also sport triple-camera setups with the 7.2 getting a 1/2 inch 48-megapixel sensor.

Pricing for the 6.2 starts at €199 with the 7.2 starting at €299.

HMD Nokia emphasised its lead in updating software and security based on the research conducted by Counterpoint Research.

In addition to the smartphones, HMD Nokia also introduced three new feature phones – a market where it leads by a considerable margin already. The new products will help it tighten its stranglehold on the feature phone space:

The Nokia 110 – a cute basic 2G feature phone based on enhanced Series 30 operating system.

The Nokia 2720 – a flip phone smart feature phone with 4G LTE capability and running on KaiOS with essential apps for many markets including Facebook and WhatsApp preloaded. An emergency button is also included which means that the 2720 could be aimed at the elders market to compete with offerings from companies like Doro, though the emergency button is quite small.

The Nokia 800 Tough – Nokia feature phones are well-known for their ability to withstand harsh treatment, but the 800 Tough goes several steps further. It’s a ruggedized smart feature phone running KaiOS and built to MIL 810G standard. It also has a remarkable battery life. On GSM, Nokia claims it will last almost six weeks between charges. For expeditions that may have limited access to power, this could be a lifesaver, though the market for builders and other laborers is much larger than those of explorers!

TCL takes a swing at the smartphone market

TCL is best known globally for its TV business in North America, but it offers a diverse range of consumer electronics products that span domestic appliances, air conditioners, TVs, audio products, to smartphones. TCL licenses the Alcatel and BlackBerry brands, which have carved out specific niche positions – notably Alcatel that performs quite well in the prepaid markets of the Americas. But the Alcatel brand has never had the muscle to fight in the affordable premium and premium segments. This is where the TCL brand is being mobilized.

Its initial smartphone product is the TCL Plex. It’s a well-executed mid-range smartphone. Interestingly, it also runs the Pixelworks technology that HMD Nokia is using. Here Pixelworks helps TCL’s own display technology to really shine, with excellent color reproduction.

The Plex also has a triple camera set-up, which is almost now table stakes in the mid-range.

TCL has good organizational structures in many parts of the world in which its Chinese rivals are only just now establishing. This means it has a head start in some respects, but the brand is unknown in the smartphone market in Europe and many parts of Asia. And given that it will only launch in markets where operators are not heavily in control, means that it won’t launch in the US, UK, and a few other key markets – preferring to work with open market retailers.

TCL flashed a look at a folding concept, though played down the speed with which it will bring a device to market. It also showed an augmented reality headset concept – again with no specific plans to bring it to market.

TCL faces a considerable task to establish a beachhead in the market. But its challenges are mostly around marketing, distribution and brand than execution of good hardware.

Moto – Camera to the fore

Motorola’s One Zoom is the next iteration in the Moto One series (that also includes the One, One Power, One Vision, and One Action). As the name implies, this model is leading with its telephoto camera capabilities. The phone sports a four-camera set-up on the back with standard, telephoto, wide-angle and a ToF depth sensor. These are paired with an OLED display and powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 675 chipset and running stock Android 9. Pricing is around €400. The design is not to everyone’s taste, but the materials and finish are to a high standard.

Sony: didn’t get the memo about mid-range

Sony launched the Xperia 5, a flagship device with pricing likely above €800. Running on the Snapdragon 855 application processor, with a 21:9 aspect ratio 6.1” OLED FHD+ display, it’s a surprisingly compact device that acts as a smaller version of the Xperia 1, launched in February.

However, we doubt the Xperia 5 will do much to rekindle Sony’s dismal sales figures. With a wide range of excellent competitor devices from a variety of OEMs, mostly at much more attractive price points, Sony will likely struggle to gain traction even with the help provided by Huawei’s current misfortune.

Samsung: an unfolding story

Samsung’s ill-fated Galaxy Fold has been under wraps since the problems surfaced back in the spring. Samsung has been working on several improvements, such as small retention covers to prevent careless users from peeling off the top layer of the screen. And the gaps that allowed small particles of material to enter under the screen have been closed. In addition, the hinge mechanism now feels much sturdier than it did. This may be subjective and may also vary between units, but it now feels mechanically robust.

In addition to the outward hardware changes, Samsung is now offering the Galaxy Fold in both 4G and 5G versions, though it’s not clear what the pricing differential will be between the two or which markets will get which versions.

The device is definitely a work of mechanical art, but whether it’s worth the massive price premium is less clear. The advantages in terms of additional screen real estate come at a high price – both financially but also in terms of bulk and fragility. We expect the Galaxy Fold, and other folding form factor devices, will remain of niche interest for early adopters, for now.

Hearables are go

One of the other trends evident at IFA was the burgeoning availability of true wireless earbuds with updates and new releases from multiple vendors: including Huawei, Jabra, Plantronics, Nokia HMD and TCL.

Huawei’s launch of its Freebuds 3 was significant because they’re based on the new Kirin A1 chip. Outwardly they look similar to Apple’s Airpods, but their features set them apart. Despite having an open ear design, they offer active noise cancellation (ANC). They also feature bone-conduction technology to enhance microphone sensitivity as well as a wind deflector so they can be used while outside or even when cycling at up to 20km/h.

We couldn’t try the wind deflecting capabilities, but we did try music and they sounded good, with noticeably better audio quality than Apple’s Airpods. However, expect Apple to update its own Airpods within the next few months to raise the bar higher again.

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This Website is the property of Counterpoint and is protected by international copyright law and conventions. We grant users the right to access and use the Website, so long as such use is for internal information purposes, and User does not alter, copy, disseminate, redistribute or republish any content or feature of this Website. User acknowledges that access to and use of this Website is subject to these TERMS OF USE and any expanded access or use must be approved in writing by the Company.
– Passwords are for user’s individual use
– Passwords may not be shared with others
– Users may not store documents in shared folders.
– Users may not redistribute documents to non-users unless otherwise stated in their contract terms.

Changes or Updates to the Website

The Company reserves the right to change, update or discontinue any aspect of this Website at any time without notice. Your continued use of the Website after any such change constitutes your agreement to these TERMS OF USE, as modified.
Accuracy of Information: While the information contained on this Website has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, We disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of such information. User assumes sole responsibility for the use it makes of this Website to achieve his/her intended results.

Third Party Links: This Website may contain links to other third party websites, which are provided as additional resources for the convenience of Users. We do not endorse, sponsor or accept any responsibility for these third party websites, User agrees to direct any concerns relating to these third party websites to the relevant website administrator.

Cookies and Tracking

We may monitor how you use our Web sites. It is used solely for purposes of enabling us to provide you with a personalized Web site experience.
This data may also be used in the aggregate, to identify appropriate product offerings and subscription plans.
Cookies may be set in order to identify you and determine your access privileges. Cookies are simply identifiers. You have the ability to delete cookie files from your hard disk drive.