At Gamescom 2021, Microsoft announced that it will extend its game streaming service (Xbox Cloud Gaming) from PC and mobile devices to game consoles starting on Christmas Day this year. In addition to supporting the new consoles Xbox Series X/S, Xbox Cloud Gaming will also be compatible with the Xbox One models. TrendForce’s investigations indicate that the Nintendo Switch remains the mainstream option in the consumer market and is expected to reach 30.13 million units in annual sales for 2021. The PlayStation 5 consoles, which have been in severe shortage since its release, will take second place with annual sales of 17.61 million units, while the Xbox Series X/S will take third place with 8.66 million units sold this year.
Xbox One owners will comprise the majority of Xbox Cloud Gaming users on game console platforms
Microsoft has been making long-term efforts to promote cloud-based game streaming services. One such example includes the improvements that it made to its web browser to better support Xbox Cloud Gaming and permit the service to run on PC and mobile devices, with official PC and iOS releases taking place in June 2021. Microsoft’s announcement of game console compatibility with Xbox Cloud Gaming represents yet another step taken by the company towards its goal of extending game streaming services to all platforms.
As previously mentioned, Xbox Cloud Gaming supports not only the latest Xbox Series X and S consoles, but also the previous-gen Xbox One models. This wide compatibility can primarily be attributed to the fact that game streaming services have relatively low hardware requirements, thereby making it compatible across virtually all console hardware. The other reason is Microsoft’s aim to quickly expand the user base of Xbox Cloud Gaming. After all, very few people currently possess Xbox Series X/S consoles because these consoles have only been recently released, and their sale volumes have been constrained by the severe shortage of electronic components. Hence, the ability to quickly expand Xbox Cloud Gaming’s user base is contingent on adoption by current owners of Xbox One consoles, whose total cumulative sales are relatively high by now.
Going forward, Microsoft is expected to leverage the attraction of Xbox Cloud Gaming to draw consumers to purchase the Xbox Series X/S through the Xbox All Access installment payment plans. This is also why Microsoft is aggressively collaborating with and acquiring game developers, as having more games playable through Xbox Cloud Gaming will make the service more attractive to consumers.
Xbox Cloud Gaming will likely reduce the willingness of existing Xbox One owners to buy new consoles
Microsoft’s core strategy revolves around its platform and service. By attracting consumers through service first, Microsoft will then be able to raise the sales of its hardware. Put another way, increased hardware sales result in an expanded user base, which will further result in increased earnings through both platform and service.
Hence, the initial sales performances of the Xbox Series X/S are not a point of focus for Microsoft. If the company is able to expand its user base, Microsoft does not even necessarily need to ensure the popularity of the Xbox Series X/S. It can instead potentially release other modified models that are better suited for game streaming services or even simpler, dedicated game streaming boxes. However, in consideration of other services such as Xbox Live Gold, as well as earnings from players that do not subscribe to game streaming services, Microsoft must still maintain a range of game consoles that can compete with the PS5 in terms of specs.
Although Microsoft’s core strategy is in alignment with its software services for the PC market, such as Office and Windows, the heavy push for Xbox Cloud Gaming will inadvertently lower the console replacement demand of existing Xbox One owners. Furthermore, the difference in hardware specifications between the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S will also complicate the software development process for game developers, in turn reducing the willingness of developers to create games for the latest Xbox consoles and affecting the sales performances of the Xbox Series X/S.
Therefore, it makes sense that despite the similar specs between the Xbox Series X and the PS5, their sales numbers differ wildly. At any rate, the Switch will remain the sales leader in the game console market in 2021, with the PS5 experiencing a gradual sales growth and the latest Xbox consoles lagging behind.
The recent surges of COVID-19 cases in India, Vietnam, and other Southeast Asian countries have adversely affected the global smartphone market in terms of production and demand, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. The global smartphone production for 2Q21 fell by 11% QoQ to a total of 307 million units. However, a YoY comparison shows an increase of around 10% for the quarter. The global production for 1H21 came to a total of 652 million units, translating to a growth rate of almost 18% compared with 1H20, when the pandemic was in the initial phase.
While fourth-ranked Apple undergoes a transition period between old and new models, and Samsung experiences a slight dip in market share, smartphone brands have improved their respective product specifications
Samsung’s smartphone production for 2Q21 reached 58.5 million units, which was the highest among all smartphone brands yet represented a 23.5% QoQ decrease. Since India and Vietnam account for the majority of its smartphone production capacity, the severe COVID-19 outbreaks in both countries during 2Q21 had a significant impact on production volume. This year, Samsung will remain as the top smartphone brand by quarterly and annual production. However, it will face increasing difficulty in preserving its steadily shrinking market share in the future. The competition will only intensify as rival brands have become excelled at smartphone design and manufacturing.
OPPO’s smartphone production fell by 6.6% QoQ to 49.5 million units for 2Q21. OPPO’s production figure includes devices from sub-brands Realme and OnePlus. Xiaomi’s smartphone production also came to 49.5 million units for 2Q21, showing a QoQ drop of 2%. Xiaomi’s production figure includes devices from sub-brands Redmi, POCO, and Black Shark. On a YoY basis, OPPO posted a growth rate of 80%, whereas Xiaomi posted a growth rate of almost 70%. The high YoY growth rates were attributed to them capturing some market share abandoned by Huawei and the recovery of China’s smartphone market. Both OPPO and Xiaomi claimed second place in the quarterly ranking. Vivo is another Chinese brand that faces a similar situation. Its smartphone production, which includes devices from sub-brand iQoo, dropped by 8.1% QoQ to 34 million units. Vivo took fifth place in the quarterly ranking. Each of these three Chinese brands has made India its second largest base with respect to production and sales operations. Hence, India’s recent COVID-19 surge affected the production and sales performances of all three brands in 2Q21.
Regarding future plans, all three Chinese brands corrected down their annual production targets at the end of 2Q21 due to the COVID-19 surge in Southeast Asia and the capacity crunch in the foundry market. Lowering the annual production target is going to alleviate the cash flow pressure by preventing the component gaps from widening and the inventory of whole devices from rising. It should be pointed out that OPPO, Xiaomi, and Vivo have been very proactive in developing innovative products in the high-end segment of the smartphone market. The high-end models from these three brands are not able to completely assume the market positions that have been held by the flagship models under Huawei’s P and Mate series. Nonetheless, all three brands have posted strong results in both the domestic and overseas markets. To capture more market share, Xiaomi and OPPO are leveraging their respective sub-brands Redmi and Realme that both offer high performance for price. TrendForce therefore believes that these two brands will be more or less evenly matched in terms of production through this whole year.
Apple’s iPhone production reached its lowest point for the year, and its rank fell to fourth place in 2Q21 because the second quarter is the transition period between last year’s and this year’s iPhone series. The quarterly total iPhone production fell by 22.2% QoQ to around 42 million units. In the aspect of product development, Apple will be releasing four flagship iPhone models this September. The major upgrades that come with the new series are the improved camera and the next-generation A15 processor that is manufactured with TSMC’s 5nm+ process. Other upgrades relate to the optimization of the existing functions. This year’s iPhone line-up can be regarded as an extension of the iPhone 12 series that was released in 2020. With regards to pricing, Apple will be maintaining its proactive approach so as to gain more market share. On the other hand, there is the possibility that Apple’s device production during 2H21 will be affected by the recent spike of COVID-19 cases in Malaysia. Due to the severity of the outbreak situation, shipments of ICs from that country have experienced delays.
With an annual production of 9.4 million units for 2021, LG officially terminated its smartphone manufacturing operations in 2Q21
LG signaled that it will be selling or shutting down its mobile phone unit at the start of this year, and then the company announced that it will formally close the mobile phone unit this April. The development of new smartphone models was also suspended. According to the shutdown plan, the production of LG smartphones has ceased since the end of 2Q21. Altogether, LG produced around 9.4 million units this year and is estimated to account for about 1% of the market share. As for LG’s regional markets, the company was focusing on expanding its presence in the respective mid-range segments of the North American and Latin American markets. With LG ceasing its smartphone production, the abandoned market share in North America will be mostly divided among Android phone brands Samsung, Lenovo, and brands owned by local telecom companies. In Latin America, Lenovo and Xiaomi will likely benefit the most from LG’s exit.
Persistent uncertainties in the pandemic’s impact may continue to affect smartphone production in 2H21
Regarding the global smartphone production for the whole 2021, TrendForce has corrected down its estimation from the previous version of 1.36 billion units with a YoY growth rate 8.5% to the current version of 1.345 billion units with a YoY growth rate of 7.3%. Going forward, one of the two main focuses of observation will be on whether the pandemic will cause a further decline in smartphone sales. For instance, while Europe and the US are currently experiencing a resurgence of infections, Southeast Asian countries have also been unable to subdue the most recent outbreaks. In addition, the pandemic continues to pose a risk to the smartphone supply chain. Take Malaysia for example. It accounts for a significant share of the global production capacity for OSAT (i.e., around 15%). With the country now becoming a COVID-19 hotspot, there have been disruptions in the supply of some key semiconductor components. This, in turn, will negatively affect smartphone production during the second half of this year.
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As TV demand increased in North America in 1H21 following the distribution of stimulus packages, TV brands continued to replenish their component inventories during this time, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. Notably, brands adopted a rolling schedule for their TV shipment because their manufacturing operations for TV sets were disrupted by a shortage of panels in 2Q21. TV shipment for 1H21 reached 98.45 million units, a 10% YoY increase.
Although supply issues related TV components have become gradually alleviated in 3Q21, TrendForce believes that retail prices of TV sets in 2H21 are unlikely to reach the rock bottom levels previously seen in 1H21 because the massive price hike of TV panels in 1H21 had led to a surge in TV manufacturing costs. In addition, as the market anticipates the possibility of an overall downturn in demand despite the arrival of the traditional peak season, TrendForce has once again revised its forecast of annual TV shipment for 2021 down to 215 million units, a 0.9% YoY decrease.
Chinese and Korean TV brands were major contributors to the growth of TV shipment for 1H21 while shipment of ultra large-sized TVs remained robust
TrendForce’s findings show that, although TV shipment for 1H21 fell short of prior forecasts by 5.8%, shipment from the two largest brands SEC (Samsung Electronics Co) and LGE (LG Electronics) comprised more than 20% of total large-sized TV shipment for the first time, thereby propelling their TV shipments for 1H21 above 20.7 million units for SEC and 14.01 million units for LGE. In particular, SEC’s large-sized (65-inch and above) TV shipment underwent a staggering 25% YoY increase for 1H21. Hence, the two brands’ strategy to eschew profit loss from the surge in panel prices by upgrading their product specs and increasing the shipment of larger-sized products proved to be relatively successful.
Despite nonstop issues with the supply of components required for TV set manufacturing in 1H21, TCL and Hisense were able to lower the manufacturing costs of their TV sets by increasing their shipments and adjusting their product mixes. For 1H21, TCL and Hisense increased their TV shipments by 11.5% and 9.5% YoY to 11.05 million units and 8.94 million units, respectively, with both companies setting records in terms of shipment volumes. In particular, 55-inch (and above) TVs accounted for 36.5% and 40.2%, of the 1H21 TV shipment from TCL and Hisense, respectively, meaning they shipped more large-sized TVs in 2021 than in any previous year. Xiaomi, the only brand among the top five to record a YoY drop in its TV shipment, saw its shipment reach 5.52 million units, a 6.6% YoY decline, despite occupying a larger share of TV shipment in China compared to TCL or Hisense. While Xiaomi struggled with rising manufacturing costs due to the persistent price hike of TV panels, Xiaomi’s decline can primarily be attributed to the fact that it failed to attract consumers despite multiple promotional price cuts in 1H21.
Persistently high prices of TV panels as well as lengthened shipping times in Europe and North America will likely hinder TV sales in 2H21 despite the arrival of the traditional peak season
Issues with TV panel supply are expected to gradually become resolved in 2H21. However, TV brands still need to address ongoing challenges with high panel costs as well as lowered TV demand in Europe and the US now that pandemic-related restrictions are being lifted. From June 2020 to July 2021, prices of 32-inch panels rose by 167%, though retail prices of 32-inch TV sets rose by a mere 30-35%. Similarly, prices of 55-inch panels rose by 120% while retail prices of 55-inch entry-level and mid-range TV sets rose by only 20-25%, with high-end TVs even experiencing a price drop. In other words, promotional price cuts taking place during peak season sales this year are unlikely to be remarkable and result in noticeable sales performances.
Although third quarters have traditionally marked the start of the peak sales season and hence a period of component procurement for TV brands, retail availability of end-products, such as TV sets, was delayed by three to four weeks this year due to port congestions taking place across the globe, which indirectly led to a decline in TV brands’ procurement activities for Europe and North America. Peak season sales, in turn, will likely be relatively muted this year in view of an increase in TV manufacturing costs and lengthened shipping times. Therefore, TrendForce expects TV shipment for 2H21 to reach 117 million units, an 8.5% YoY decrease.
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Shipment of curved monitors for 1H21 was constrained by the shortage of such components as panels and scaler ICs, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. As countries begin to lift pandemic-related restrictions following increased vaccinations in Europe and the US in 2H21, consumer demand generated by the stay-at-home economy has undergone a noticeable slowdown as well. Taking these factors into account, TrendForce, therefore, expects annual curved monitor shipment for 2021 to reach about 15.6 million units, a 10% YoY increase.
TrendForce finds that curved monitor shipment for 2Q21 reached about 3.41 million units, a 6.1% QoQ decrease. Samsung once again took a leadership position with a quarterly shipment of 1.09 million units and a 32% market share. Coming in second place was AOC/Philips, which posted a 12% market share with a shipment of 410,000 units. Finally, MSI and Dell each took third place and fourth place with 10% and 8% in market share, respectively.
It should be pointed out that, SDC, the largest supplier of curved monitor panels last year, reduced their production of LCD monitor panels considerably in 1H21. As a result, brands which had heavily relied on SDC’s panel supply, including Samsung Electronics, AOC/Philips, HP, and HKC, experienced QoQ declines of 21%, 36%, 64%, and 32%, respectively, in their shipments of curved monitors for 2Q21.
Conversely, LGE, Acer, and Dell saw QoQ increases of 110%, 47%, and 38%, respectively, in their curved monitor shipment for 2Q21 against the market downtrend. These companies’ growths can be attributed to the fact that they did not adopt SDC panels for most of the models in their curved monitor lineups while SDC was the predominant supplier of curved monitor panels. LGE, in particular, did not procure panels from SDC at all. Instead, these aforementioned companies have mostly been sourcing panels from AUO or CSOT for their newly released curved monitors, meaning they will be relatively unaffected by SDC’s shuttering going forward.
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The iPhone 13 series, which is about to be formally announced by Apple, has already had its exterior design speculated on by various media outlets and fans alike. TrendForce’s latest investigations indicate that some of the notable hardware upgrades of the iPhone 13 pertain to the SoC (manufactured at the 5nm+ node, which enables improved performance and decreased power consumption), display, and camera. In addition, iPhone handsets featuring support for 5G mmWave will be available for sale in more countries after the release of iPhone 13.
The iPhone 13 will see a shift in its charging circuit board from the previous rigid-flex PCB design to a new design featuring SiP combined with flexible PCB. The space-saving feature of this new design will also likely result in increased battery capacity. As for retail prices, the iPhone 13 series is expected to remain similar to the iPhone 12 series assuming Apple is able to effectively control manufacturing costs, since the latest models do not come with significant hardware upgrades. As a result of this aggressive pricing scheme, iPhone shipment will likely maintain its growth trajectory for two consecutive years.
Huawei’s plight led to Apple’s rising market share in the Greater China region
Owing to heavy competition from Chinese brands, sales in the Greater China region accounted for a decreasing share of Apple’s iPhone revenue, from 19.44% in 2017 down to merely 16.33% in 2020. Nevertheless, this downtrend has been gradually reversing since 4Q20, primarily because of increased sanctions against Huawei.As Huawei was cut off from its chip supply in 4Q20, shipment of Huawei smartphones underwent a massive decline accordingly, in turn leaving vacancies in the flagship smartphone market in China. At the same time, while Apple released its new iPhone 12 models, flagship smartphone buyers in China began purchasing iPhones instead. Thanks to this shift, sales in the Greater China region began accounting for a growing share of Apple’s iPhone revenue, from 14.8% up to 19.13% in 4Q20. Since 4Q20, this figure has remained above 18% for three consecutive quarters.
Prior to being sanctioned by the US government, Huawei had enjoyed the highest market share in the high-end smartphone segment in China. After the sanctions were put into place, this segment then became highly sought after by other smartphone brands. However, because other Chinese brands had not previously placed significant emphasis on the high-end market, the iPhone was able to seize most of the market share in the high-end segment left in Huawei’s wake. Furthermore, although other Chinese smartphone brands have started developing their respective flagship models, it takes considerable time to build up their brand images in this segment and attract customers. TrendForce therefore believes that the iPhone will continue to dominate the high-end smartphone market in China for the next two to three years.
iPhones are expected to account for 16.7% of global smartphone shipment in 2021
An overview of iPhone shipments for the past few years shows that iPhone shipment went into a nosedive starting in 4Q18 because the iPhone XS/XR series featured limited improvements yet a significant price hike over its iPhone 8/X predecessor. Alarmed by this decline, Apple immediately revamped its sales strategy for the next-gen iPhone 11, which not only underwent a total overhaul in terms of specs but also experienced a price cut of US$50 for the entry-level model (the Pro model retained its previous-gen equivalent’s price). Apple subsequently released the brand-new iPhone SE in 2020, thereby reversing the downward trajectory of iPhone shipment as a result.
New iPhones saw a deferred released schedule in 2020 owing to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to a 14% YoY decrease in iPhone shipment for 3Q20. However, as the new iPhone 12 models equipped with across-the-board hardware upgrades, including 5G functionality, were released in 4Q20, iPhone shipment saw a massive rebound during the quarter and reached a 12% YoY increase in 4Q20 and a further increase of 42% YoY in 1Q21.
Looking ahead to the shipment volumes of the new iPhone models for 2H21, TrendForce expects Apple to maintain its aggressive pricing strategy in order to boost shipment. In addition, as the iPhone 13 series will once again return to a September release, total iPhone shipment is expected to undergo a 30% YoY increase in 3Q21, but a 5% YoY decrease in 4Q21. As such, iPhone sales for 2H21 will likely surpass 2H20 figures. For 2021, iPhones are expected to account for 16.7% of all smartphone shipment, which is a step-up compared to last year.