Global smartphone sales reached $115 billion in Q4 2014, an increase of 20 per cent year-on-year, according to GfK data. The number of units sold globally increased to almost 346 million, up 19 per cent on Q4 2013. Watching TV on the go has become the norm in many markets, and the proliferation of smartphones allows more people access to a more diverse range of content than ever.
In Q4 2014, all regions saw year-on-year growth in smartphones, both in terms of units and value. The one exception was Developed APAC, where subsidy changes in Korea negatively affected these already very mature markets. The Latin America smartphone market enjoyed the highest growth with 36 million units sold in Q4 2014, a 43 per cent year-on-year increase. This region also saw the value of units sold increase by 37 per cent year-on-year to around $10 billion.
China will remain the biggest market in terms of both unit and value sales for the foreseeable future. However, growth slowed dramatically in the second half of 2014. During the fourth quarter smartphone unit sales were flat year-on-year, although the value of units sold increased by 21 per cent year-on-year to $28 billion, the highest ever quarterly figure.
“The increase in the value of units sold in China, despite the recent plateauing of unit sales, is due to consumers’ rapid adoption of higher priced smartphones with larger screen sizes,” said Kevin Walsh, director of trends and forecasting at GfK. “This is a trend seen in most markets and GfK global data shows that the 5 to 5.6-inch segment grew by more than 130 per cent year-on-year in the last quarter of 2014 and by nearly 150 per cent in the full year. In 2015, we forecast this segment to become the dominant screen size band, surpassing 4 to 4.5-inch for the first time.”
All other regions – except for North America and developed APAC – saw a decrease in the ASP in Q4 2014. Looking ahead, all regions will grow in unit terms in 2015, but growth rates will slow significantly from 2014.
Walsh continues: “The slowdown forecast for 2015 is due to developed markets reaching saturation point. As a result, global smartphone unit growth will be only 14 per cent this year, down from 23 per cent in 2014. We forecast emerging regions to drive growth in 2015 as smartphones further penetrate lower price points. GfK forecasts that smartphone price bands above $150 will see a decline in their market share. At the next level down, $100-150, sales will remain stable, but it is the cheaper smartphones priced below this point that will gain share.”
The most resilient two regions in 2015 are Emerging APAC and Middle East and Africa. Both regions still have significant room for growth as consumers migrate from feature phones and existing smartphones to trade up to a bigger screen.
Image: Gfk, Smartphone sales based on point-of-sale (POS) tracking in 90+ martkets