Chinese smartphone brands such as Xiaomi, OPPO, and Vivo all have their own production lines. In recent years, these brands have accelerated their overseas deployment due to rising labor costs in China, growing geopolitical risk factors, and the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only will Xiaomi produce mobile phones in Vietnam, but the company will also continue to expand production lines in India and Indonesia in the coming years. OPPO has also set up factories in countries including India, Indonesia, and Turkey to meet the needs of neighboring markets. Vivo has successively set up factories in India, Bangladesh, and Indonesia, and initiated its production lines in Turkey and Pakistan in 2021. Since current trends have the Chinese market declining more than the global market, OPPO and Vivo’s proportion of overseas production capacity is expected to increase gradually. As for Xiaomi, which has always been active in overseas markets, the company will continue to expand its production capacity in India and Vietnam.
Xiaomi’s achievements in expanding overseas markets are most outstanding, OPPO following suit, Vivo rushing to catch up
From the perspective of Chinese brands, Xiaomi has been deeply involved in overseas markets for many years. Its overseas revenue was only RMB9.1 billion in 2016, but by 2018, overseas revenue had exceeded RMB70 billion. Xiaomi currently has a market share varying between 10 and 25% in Europe, India, Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines. On the other hand, OPPO has been tackling overseas markets aggressively since 2018, and currently has a market share between 10-15% in India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines. As for Vivo’s late start, its market share in India, Pakistan, and the Philippines is approximately 10-15%.
If the overall market is divided into the Chinese market and the non-Chinese market, shipments from Xiaomi, OPPO, and Vivo to the non-Chinese market are estimated to account for 74%, 66%, and 46% of total shipments, respectively, in 2021. Since China’s smartphone shipments may decrease by 16% in 2022, and recovery is limited in the short term, Xiaomi, OPPO, and Vivo are expected to focus more on overseas markets in the future and the proportion of non-Chinese market shipments is expected to increase further.
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According to TrendForce research, global smartphone production volume in 1Q22 was 310 million units, a QoQ decrease of 12.8%, primarily attributed to ongoing inventory adjustments in various distribution channels performed by a number of brands and the cyclical off-season, which led to relatively weak production performance in 1Q22. In 2Q22, a resurgence of the pandemic in the world’s largest consumer market, China, exacerbated the drop in global 2Q22 mobile phone production to 309 million units. However, compared to the same period in 2021, when a resurgent pandemic in India and Southeast Asia caused a sharp drop in total production, mobile phone production grew slightly by 0.7%.
TrendForce further indicates that the war between Russia and Ukraine continues to exacerbate the rising global inflation issue. High inflation means that personal disposable income will shrink and will inevitably lead to prolonged replacement cycles and reduced purchasing budgets for individual devices. Summarizing 2022, corrections in 1H22 were primarily due to the impact of China’s lockdowns on the economy while corrections in 2H22 highlight the inflation crisis. The total production forecast for the entire year will be revised down to 1.333 billion units and there is still room for downward revisions in the future.
Due to China’s economic headwinds, shipments fall again to 283 million, an annual decline of nearly 13%
From a regional perspective, due to China’s insistence on maintaining a strict “dynamic zero-COVID” policy and the recent festering of the pandemic, economic performance is also facing greater downward pressure and the demand for smartphones has likewise cooled in the face of pandemic prevention measures. Overall, the sales market share of China’s smartphone market still ranks first in the world but, due to the impact of the pandemic, its market share has dropped from 24.2% last year to 21.1% this year while the corresponding total shipment forecast fell from 325 million units last year to 283 million units, an annual decline of approximately 12.9%. Although the impact of the pandemic in the remainder of the region has been comparatively blunted, in the face of a rising inflation crisis, even the overpopulated Indian market will be unable to support substantial growth. From the perspective of the 2022 national shipment share ranking forecast, the top three positions will be held by China, India, and the United States, accounting for a 21.1%, 13.1%, and 11.0% share, respectively.
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.
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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.
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