Although the global smartphone market is becoming increasingly saturated, it is still worth looking forward to demand in emerging markets such as Southeast Asia and Africa when caught in an environment with limited momentum. . Due to the recent expansion of infrastructure construction in Africa, the regional smartphone market has the opportunity to replicate the prior development path of Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia. TrendForce forecasts total smartphone shipments in Africa to reach approximately 107 million units in 2022. Sub-Saharan Africa, which accounts for 78% of Africa’s total population, holds the greatest potential and countries such as Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, and Tanzania are worthy of attention.
Taking the Sahara Desert as a natural barrier, North Africa cleaves closer to Europe and the Middle East, modernizing earlier, and possessing higher GDP per capita and relatively greater spending power. Looking at Egypt, its mainstream smartphone brands in 2021 were Samsung, OPPO, and Xiaomi. As for Africa south of the Sahara, taking Nigeria as an example, mainstream brands are TECNO, Infinix, and Itel, which is very different from the Egyptian market. TECNO, Infinix, and Itel are owned by Transsion Holdings of China and, in terms of the overall African smartphone market, Transsion Holdings is already dominant. These three brands captured an estimated combined market share of approximately 52% in 2021, eclipsing Samsung’s 15%.
TrendForce believes that mainstream mobile phone brands in Africa are very different from markets in Europe, North America, and East Asia and are mainly influenced by factors such as local spending power, communication services, and user needs, while mobile phone pricing is undoubtedly the decisive factor. For example, approximately 60% of smartphones sold in Egypt are priced between $100 and $200. While in sub-Saharan Africa, excluding a few countries with high GDP per capita such as Gabon and South Africa, most smartphones are sold at below US$100 in the market. However, from the perspective of mainstream global smartphone brands, the price of low-end smartphones is still higher than US$160 which remains quite unaffordable for the majority of local consumers. This pricing gap gives TECNO, Infinix, and Itel more room to operate.
In addition, the reason Transsion Holdings’ brands can dominate the African smartphone market includes many localized marketing strategies in addition to price factors. For example, cleaving close to local consumption habits, setting up physical sales locations, launching models that support 4 sim cards to meet the needs of users with multiple phone numbers, or installing large-capacity batteries in low-end mobile phones to reduce the inconvenience of frequent searches for charging stations, all of which help to enhance the competitive strength of the Transsion brand. Transsion Holdings is expected to continue leading the African market from 2022 to 2025.
According to TrendForce, the consumer electronics market will feel the brunt of the weakening stay-at-home economy, the pandemic in China, international tensions, and rising inflation in 1H22. Coupled with the traditional off-season, demand for relevant applications such as PCs, laptops, TVs, and smartphones has cooled significantly and downstream customers have successively downgraded their shipment targets for the year, while demand for automotive, Internet of Things, communications, and servers products remain good. At the same time, the supply chain will build higher inventories in general to mitigate the risk of material shortages due to transportation impediments induced by the spread of the pandemic and the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine.
Due to the prolonged lead-time of semiconductor equipment and limited new capacity in 1Q22, the overall foundry capacity utilization rate remains fully loaded, in particular, component mismatch issues continue for parts produced at mature nodes (1Xnm~180nm). Looking forward to the second quarter, although growth in global wafer production capacity remains limited, due to weak demand for end products, continuing international tension, and China’s forced lockdowns and supervision due to the recent spread of the pandemic, there is an opportunity for the supply chain to obtain a more adequate supply of wafers that were previously squeezed by production capacity.
The overall supply of key server materials improved slightly in 1Q22. In addition, due to increasing orders from ultra-large data centers, the general supply cycle of NetCom chips such as LAN IC/chip remains as long as approximately 40 weeks but the demand gap can be bridged by instituting urgent order fees, mitigating actual impact. As the aforementioned situation eases, additional orders for ODM motherboard production are moving briskly, prompting continued stocking of FPGAs and PMICs materials. NetCom chips are also overstocked and the overall market has a reached a “rich get richer” mindset. Material shortages at second-tier ODMs still stifle the production of motherboards for a small number of customers but does not affect the overall server market supply. With improvements in material supply, server shipments will increase significantly in 2Q22, growing an estimated 15.8% QoQ to 3.6 million units.
Affected by sluggish seasonal demand, the Russian-Ukrainian war, and rising inflation, market demand has cooled. Thus, material delivery issues in the supply chain have eased compared to 2H21. Although there is still a shortage of certain components, most of these shortages are concentrated in mid/low-end smartphone products. The lead time for 4G and low-end 5G SoCs is approximately 30 to 40 weeks, which is limited by production capacity planning. Since last year, the demand of the mid/low-end mobile phone market has not been met. This is followed by A+G sensors with a lead time of approximately 32~36 weeks and OLED DDIC and Touch IC with a lead time of 20~22 weeks. The production volume of smartphones in 2Q22 will be affected by the interaction of the aforementioned factors with a forecast production volume of 323 million units, or only 6% QoQ, which is lower than the performance of previous years.
Also affected by weakening end market demand, discounting client SSDs that are no longer oversupplied, Type C IC, WiFi, and PMIC all currently boast long lead times, with Type C IC the lengthiest at 20~25 weeks. However, compared with TrendForce’s assessment at the beginning of this year, the delivery cycle has not grown longer, so the lead time of these three types of products is expected to improve by the end of 2Q22. As supply chain backlog continues to improve, shipments of notebook computers (including Chromebooks) is expected to reach approximately 55.1 million units in 2Q22, down 0.7% QoQ.
5. MLCC Passive Components
From the perspective of other key components, taking MLCC as an example, demand for major consumer electronic products such as mobile phones, laptops, tablets, and TVs declined significantly in 1Q22, resulting in high consumer product specification MLCC inventory levels held by original suppliers and channel agents and this situation may continue into 2Q22. At present, the stocking momentum for automotive and industrial MLCCs has steadily increased, while consumer specification products have yet to escape the pattern of oversupply. In 2Q22, the MLCC market has the opportunity to alleviate its component mismatch issues through gradually increased production capacity and automotive and server ICs supplied by semiconductor IDM companies, driving stocking momentum at automotive power, server, fast charging, and charging/energy storage equipment OEMs. Vehicle and industrial MLCCs have the opportunity to become primary growth drivers in 2Q22 with Murata, TDK, Taiyu and Yageo as the primary beneficiaries. Consumer specification products, which account for the bulk of MLCC production from suppliers in Taiwan, South Korea, and China, may face continued market demand weakness in 2Q22 due to a slowdown in demand for mobile phones and laptops and continuing inventory adjustment by branded companies and ODMs.
Looking forward to 2Q22, not including servers, demand for end products related to the consumer category remains weak. Components that were originally oversupplied will face more severe price tests due to the imbalance between supply and demand. In terms of materials in serious short supply, more output will be transferred to products with strong demand through the deployment of internal production capacity. TrendForce believes that from the changes in PC market conditions, it can be seen in rapid changes in demand, purchasing behavior has quickly switched from the former over-ordering strategy to actively cutting orders, inducing supply chains to buck the seasonal trends of previous years. Due to the accelerated recent spread of Omicron in China and under the country’s dynamic zero-COVID policy, mandatory and sudden lockdown and control measures may cause local manufacturers to face multiple and complex supply chain problems, which will be detrimental to market performance.
According to TrendForce research, due to lower-than-expected sales in 4Q21, the smartphone market in 1Q22 not only needed to adjust its accumulated inventory of finished products, but it was also affected by sluggish seasonal demand, resulting in relatively weak 1Q22 production performance. Coupled with the impact of recent events such as the Russian-Ukrainian war and lockdowns of Chinese cities, overall production performance in 1H22 will weaken, affecting total production in 2022. The original forecast of 1.38 billion units produced will be downgraded to 1.366 billion units, with annual growth rate slipping to 2.5%. Neither the COVID-19 pandemic nor the shortage of wafer production capacity has been significantly alleviated. This coupled with serious issues involving geopolitics, inflation, and energy shortages this year will generate variables in the smartphone market for 2022. Therefore, further downward revision of total 2022 production volume cannot be ruled out.
There are two key observations regarding the impact of the war on the smartphone market. First, brand sales have been suspended or have dropped sharply. According to TrendForce statistics, mobile phone sales in Russia and Ukraine account for approximately 3-4% of global market share, 85% of which are in the Russian market, with Samsung, Xiaomi, and Apple as the top three Russian mobile phone brands. Since Apple and Samsung announced the suspension of all exports to Russia, vacated market share will migrate to Chinese brands. If the war can be brought under control before the end of April, estimated impact on the smartphone market in 2022 will be approximately 20 million units.
Second, the war has exacerbated global inflation, which is strongly affecting energy and food prices in particular and is rapidly spreading from Europe to the world. This also implies that personal disposable income will shrink simultaneously, resulting in a prolonged replacement cycle in the smartphone market and phenomena such as falling budgets for stand-alone purchases. Due to inflation’s broad and profound influence, it is not yet possible to determine the extent of its impact on the global smartphone market but there is indeed a high risk of downward revisions in the future.
It should be noted, in addition to the war, the pandemic will continue to affect smartphone market trends in 2022. China, the world’s largest smartphone consumer market, is still adopting a dynamic zero-COVID policy. Not only will this policy exacerbate manpower and material shortages in the intricate smartphone supply chain, pandemic prevention activities will also throw cold water on demand. TrendForce believes, given China’s short-term economic growth rate, the current forecast for China’s smartphone market shipments will drop from approximately 325 million units last year to 300 million units, representing an annual decline of approximately 7.7%, and a possibility of a continued downturn.
Global smartphone production came to 356 million units for 2021, showing a QoQ increase of 9.5%, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. The second half of last year saw demand injections related to the peak promotion season for e-commerce platforms and year-end holiday sales. These factors thus bolstered smartphone production and resulted in 4Q21 seeing the highest QoQ growth rate for the year. Apple’s new iPhones were the primary growth driver. On the other hand, the performances of a few smartphone brands were constrained by the shortage of some key components. Hence, the total smartphone production for 4Q21 was slightly lower compared with 4Q20 or even 4Q19.
Apple took production leadership in 4Q21 with record high of 85.5 million units
After unveiling the iPhone 13 series in September, Apple started aggressively ramping up the shipments of these new devices to meet market demand. Owing to its fast-paced sales and marketing rhythms, Apple has been able to take first place in the quarterly ranking of smartphone brands by production market hare for many fourth quarters, and 4Q21 was no exception. Besides maintaining its top position in the fourth-quarter brand ranking, Apple raised its quarterly iPhone production to a new record high of 85.5 million units, a 66.0% QoQ increase. In the aspect of pricing strategy, the prices of the new iPhone 13 models were reasonable for consumers, while the price reductions for the older iPhone models were noticeable as well. Moreover, the capturing of the market share left by Huawei can be considered as the main factor behind Apple’s stellar performance in 4Q21. Over time, the orders for Huawei’s flagship models (i.e., the P and Mate series) have been gradually replaced by iPhone orders. In terms of annual production, Apple reached 233 million units for 2021, up from almost 200 million units for 2020. The growth was mainly attributed to an expansion of Apple’s market share in China from 10% to 16%. Samsung took second place in the global brand ranking for 4Q21 with 71 million units, a 2.9% QoQ increase. In 2Q21, the spread of COVID-19 outbreaks in Vietnam affected smartphone production facilities in the country and lowered Samsung’s capacity utilization rate. But apart from that quarter, Samsung’s performance remained stable for the other three quarters of last year. For the ranking of smartphone brands by annual production, Samsung was still the leader for 2021 with 275 million units.
OPPO (including Realme and OnePlus) took third place in the ranking with a quarterly production of 48 million units, a 5.9% QoQ decrease, for 4Q21. Xiaomi (including Redmi, POCO, and Black Shark) took fourth place with a production of 45.5 million units, a 2.2% QoQ increase. Fifth-ranked Vivo (including iQoo), on the other hand, reduced its smartphone production by 11.8% QoQ to 30 million units. As these three Chinese brands’ target markets and product strategies show significant overlap, their control of key components that are currently in shortage will have a direct impact on their production volumes going forward. It should also be pointed out that Honor, which was spun off from Huawei in early 2021 and underwent a period of corporate restructuring and component procurement in 1H21, experienced a meteoric rise in 2H21. Much like other Chinese brands, Honor adopts a sales strategy that primarily focuses on the Chinese market, meaning Honor’s smartphone business will continue to affect OPPO, Xiaomi, and Vivo, all of which place a top priority on domestic sales.
Annual smartphone production for 2022 will likely reach 1.381 billion units despite potential decline
Assuming that the global spread of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to slow, TrendForce expects annual smartphone production for 2022 to undergo a slight YoY increase of 3.6% to 1.381 billion units. Not only is smartphone demand expected to decline in China, which represents the largest consumer market in the world, but other markets will also exhibit only limited growth. Hence, the leading growth drivers will come from both cyclical replacement demand and new demand from emerging markets. Notably, in addition to factors such as foundry capacity allocation, global inflation, and energy shortage, whether an economic recovery will bring about positive change for the smartphone market will continue to influence the overall performance of the industry. TrendForce therefore believes that the annual smartphone production for 2022 may still face potential downside risks.
Regardless, the recent war between Russia and Ukraine has generated a host of issues including exchange rates, inflation, and logistics problems that affect smartphone sales in Eastern Europe. With regards to the market share of smartphone brands in Russia and Ukraine last year, the top three brands by sales included Samsung, Xiaomi, and Apple, with a combined 45 million units sold, accounting for 3% of the global total. Preliminary assessments indicate that the ongoing war will not have a drastic effect on smartphone production for 2022, though TrendForce also does not rule out the possibility that the resultant global economic problems may affect overall smartphone demand.