Research firm Strategy Analytics said shipments in February fell by 38 percent year-on-year.
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“Some Asian factories were unable to manufacture smartphones, while many consumers were unable or unwilling to visit retail stores and buy new devices,” she said.
The report said that smartphone shipments dropped from 99.2 million in February 2019 to 61.8 million in February 2020.
Last month was set to be a big month for the phone industry, with its annual Mobile World Congress showcase, where many new phones would have been unveiled for the first time.
Samsung, which revealed its latest flagship S20 phones in February, has seen slow initial sales while Apple warned it would miss its profit forecasts, adding that the worldwide iPhone supply would be “constrained”.
“February 2020 saw the biggest-ever fall in the history of the worldwide smartphone market,” said Strategy Analytics executive director Neil Mawston.
“Supply and demand of smartphones plunged in China, slumped across Asia, and slowed in the rest of the world.
“It is a period the smartphone industry will want to forget.”
The research firm said it expected smartphone shipments to continue to struggle throughout March, now that the virus has spread through Europe and into the United States.
Retailers may decide to offer “generous” discounts on bundles to bolster sales, Strategy Analytics said.
Despite its warning about financial targets being missed and difficulties with iPhone supply, Apple announced two new products this week – a new iPad Pro with laser-scanning technology, and a new MacBook Air – through press release, rather than at a high-profile event as it usually does.
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