iPhone shipments will slide in 2019 without 5G support


The iPhone XS Max screen delivers more of that OLED awesomeness.
iPhone 11 will do little to reverse falling shipments.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

iPhone shipments are expected to slide by a whopping 15% in 2019, thanks in part to a lack of 5G connectivity, researchers say. But it won’t be long before sales are on the up again.

A more significant upgrade to the iPhone lineup in 2020 could allow Apple to enjoy rare growth in an increasingly saturated market.

We prepared for a less-then-spectacular iPhone refresh this fall, and it looks like that’s exactly what we’re going to get.

Recent rumors allowed us to dream of something bigger for a little while. But reliable Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo just crushed hopes of reverse wireless charging and Apple Pencil support.

That leaves us looking forward to little more than camera improvements and slightly faster performance. It’s hardly a surprise, then, that researchers aren’t expecting stellar sales.

2019 a disappointing year for iPhone

IDC predicts 2019 will be another “challenging year” for iPhone, with shipments expected to drop to 177.9 million units. That’s a rather substantial decline of 14.8% year-over-year.

Researchers blame this on market maturity, as well as a lack of 5G connectivity in Apple’s upcoming devices. But the tide will change in 2020 as the iPhone catches up with its rivals.

Support for faster cellular data speeds, coupled with other improvements, will see iPhone shipments rising again as the entire smartphone industy enjoys a rare period of growth, IDC says.

5G a savior for falling smartphone sales

Apple’s late adoption of 5G is expected to give it a slight edge over the competition. It will have a better understanding of 5G market conditions “for a much more planned launch,” the report explains.

IDC doesn’t specify what we can expect from the iPhone alone in 2020. But it does predict that 5G devices will account for 8.9% of all smartphone shipments (around 123.5 million units) next year.

By 2023, 5G smartphone shipments are expected to rise to 28.1%. iPhone shipments could reach 186.6 million units, up from 177.9 million units in 2019.

‘A critical evolution’

“To be clear, we don’t think 5G will be the savior in smartphones, but we do see it as a critical evolution in mobile technology,” said Ryan Reith, program vice president with IDC.

In other words, it’s the upgrade smartphone vendors need to make to reverse rapidly declining sales. But it won’t miraculously lead to another boon for the smartphone industry.


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