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.
According to TrendForce research, since reaching a peak of 1.457 billion units in 2017, it has been difficult for smartphones to significantly increase their penetration rate. In addition, mobile phone hardware updates have slowed which has lengthened the consumer replacement cycle. Add to this the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and growth in overall smartphone shipment volume has become increasingly difficult to achieve. However, based on the premise that the pandemic is slowing down, coupled with the strategy of certain brands actively exploring emerging markets, growth momentum in the global smartphone market has gradually gotten back on track in 2021, with shipments reaching 1.333 billion units, or 6.4% growth YoY. This upward trend is expected to continue in 2022, with shipments expected to reach 1.386 billion, or 4% growth YoY.
TrendForce emphasizes, it should be noted that the status of the pandemic is still the biggest concern affecting the smartphone market this year and this applies doubly to the production capacity of semiconductors. The current problem of material shortages has yet to be alleviated and RF chips, OLED DDICs, and PMICs continue to be in short supply. In addition, issues such as China’s rolling blackouts, spiking shipping costs, and rising chip costs, will cause smartphone brands to face price pressures and it remains to be seen whether higher prices will be acceptable to consumers.
Judging from the 2022 brand market share forecast, Samsung will remain number one followed by Apple, Xiaomi, OPPO, VIVO, and Transsion. Among these companies, Xiaomi is the brand with the fastest-growing annual shipment growth rate. In addition to stimulating sales in the Chinese market through the strategy of expanding brick and mortar stores, Xiaomi’s sales occur mostly overseas, and it is first in market share in India and Russia. In the future, it will continue to explore the Middle East, Latin America, Southeast Asia, and Africa markets.
Four keys to mobile phone trends in 2022
Folding phones, 5G, self-developed chips, and a reduction in the number of rear-facing cameras are the four keys to focus on this year. In terms of 5G mobile phones, the global penetration rate in 2021 was 37%, this is expected to rise to 47% in 2022, and may exceed 50% by 2023. At present, China is the most active country in promoting 5G models. More than 80% of the country’s shipments are 5G mobile phones. Therefore, the key to increasing the global penetration rate of 5G mobile phones in the future is focusing on regions outside China.
Regarding self-developed chips, in the past, only Samsung, Apple, and Huawei were capable of self-developing chips. However, Google launched its self-developed Tensor processor in 2021, and Xiaomi, OPPO, and VIVO have each launched professional imaging chips in succession.
According to GSMARENA (1/20), Apple may unveil the new iPhone SE, christened the iPhone SE+ 5G, sometime between late April and early May. According to what is currently known, this model will be a continuation of the previous generation design wise but whether it will employ a 4.7-inch LCD screen with a Touch ID button is unknown. The only thing known for certain is that it will be able to connect to 5G.
The SE models launched in 2020 utilized the A13 chip and a 4G Modem (the same configuration as the iPhone 11) and, according to rumors, the new SE will adopt the A15 chip and a Qualcomm Snapdragon X60 modem, (like the iPhone 13). TrendForce believes, as the release of the affordable iPhone SE (third generation) is imminent in 1H22, it has entered small batch production. The plan to supply in April is roughly on schedule and the first batch of mass production is expected to be 4 million to 5 million units. Although this new model is distinguished in neither appearance and nor specifications, as the most affordable of Apple’s 5G mobile phones, paired with brand premiums, it is still expected to occupy a place in a market where large-sized panels are king, More than 20 million units of this single model will ship throughout the year. （Image credit: Pixabay）