February smartphone shipments hit historic low

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iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max
Smartphone shipments, including iPhones, were significantly down in February.
Photo: Apple

Worldwide smartphone shipments took a much-anticipated nosedive in the month of February as the COVID-19 outbreak began to spread around the globe.

Strategy Analytics reported Friday a 38% drop in shipments, the worst ever since smartphone sales began more than a decade ago.

With life ground to a halt under orders to self-isolate, March numbers aren’t likely to get any better, according to the research firm.

“Supply and demand of smartphones plunged in China, slumped across Asia, and slowed in the rest of the world,” Strategy Analytics Executive Director Neil Mawston said. “It is a period the smartphone industry will want to forget.”

More than 99 million units shipped in February 2019. Last month, that number was just under 62 million.

Apple earlier this year braced investors for an inevitable turn of fortune. The outbreak shut down suppliers and manufacturers in China. Quarantine orders kept people at home and shuttered Apple Stores. Demand dropped sharply.

Apple sold less than 500,000 iPhones in China last month, the reported said.

Now with the virus spreading throughout Europe and North America, demand will likely remain low until consumers can feel secure to spend money on new smartphones.

“Hundreds of millions of affluent consumers are in lockdown, unable or unwilling to shop for new devices,” senior analyst Yiwen Wu said. “The smartphone industry will have to work harder than ever to lift sales in the coming weeks, such as online flash sales or generous discounts on bundling with hot products like smartwatches.”

Apple will likely turn the tide with the release of a new budget-friendly iPhone, rumored to be out soon, with a $399 price tag. Apple is likely to have a line of iPhone 12s ready for the holiday shopping season.