South African smartphone sales plummet due to COVID-19

Sales of smartphones in South Africa plunged 22.9% in the first quarter of 2020, according to the latest insights from global technology research and consulting firm International Data Corporation (IDC).

While shipments are traditionally weaker in the first quarter than in the fourth quarter of the previous year, the major reason behind the underperformance of the market was the impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the company said.

Research analyst at IDC Arnold Ponela blamed the poor quarter-on-quarter performance on the delays in shipments.

The outbreak halted production in China, with the consequential supply shortages effectively severing smartphone shipments into South Africa.

“Economic activity is usually slow in the first quarter of the year, but this was exacerbated by uncertainties caused by the COVID-19 crisis,” Ponela said

“With the negative impact of the pandemic on the economy, consumer demand declined substantially and channel activity was restricted due to lockdown measures and security issues,” he added.

Samsung continued to dominate the South African smartphone market in terms of overall shipments, accounting for 29.9% of sales in Q1 2020.

IDC said Samsung’s lead was driven by the launch of various new affordable and feature-rich models in its Galaxy A and Galaxy S series.

Mobicel (17.7%) and Huawei (15.9%) followed in second and third place, respectively.

Continued decline

The IDC expects the overall mobile phone market to experience a further double-digit decline in Q2 2020 caused by COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions.

A senior research manager at IDC, Ramazan Yavuz, said consumer demand will be severely affected, with the majority of consumer budgets being directed towards essential consumption.

“Throughout 2020, the fallout from the COVID-19 crisis will compound South Africa’s existing local and macroeconomic challenges. As such, we expect smartphone shipments to the country to decline 6.1% year on year for 2020 as a whole,” Yavuz said.

The graph below shows a breakdown of the top five best-selling smartphone brands in South Africa in 2019 and Q1 2020.

Top 5 smartphone brands in South Africa


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South African smartphone sales plummet due to COVID-19