Mobile Phone Market Looks to a Better 2022

2021 still forecast to remain below pre-pandemic levels

The mobile phone market continues its recovery in 2021 following the Covid-induced slump in 2020, but so far it’s still lacking the momentum to get back to pre-pandemic levels. This is according to our new forecast, which expects 1.65 billion mobile phones (or 52 phones every second!) to be sold in 2021, an increase of 5% from 2020 but still 9% lower than in 2019. This total comprises 1.38 billion smartphones and 0.27 billion simpler feature phones.

The mobile phone market’s recovery is becoming a tale of two divergent stories; on the one hand, there are countries like the US that are experiencing a solid macroeconomic recovery and where demand for new phones is growing nicely. But on the other, prospects in emerging economies are worsening as the pandemic drags on, denting our expectations of a speedy recovery of the mobile phone market.

A curious exception to these two patterns is found in China, where economic output returned to its pre-Covid levels in 2020. But the mobile phone market remains weak almost a year later, as people seem to be exhibiting a growing indifference to mobile phones, preferring to spend their money on other products and services.

The wider economic climate isn’t the only factor restraining the growth of the mobile phone market. The shortage of chipsets and other components continues to plague many technology sectors, from automotive to consumer electronics. The mobile phone market is far from being the worst-affected sector, but it continues to feel the pain. However, we’re observing two contrasting pictures, with less impact on lucrative premium smartphones but significant constraints on the supply of cheaper devices, whose lower profits make them less of a priority to phone-makers.

Come 2022, we expect both supply and demand to increase as global economic recovery continues and component production returns to a high enough level to meet the demands of the mobile phone industry. In the next three years, we should see the market spike above its pre-pandemic level, as deferred purchases materialize. Sales are forecast to reach 1.89 billion mobile phones in 2022 and 1.92 billion in 2025.

While the market fluctuates, one trend remains firmly on track: the transition to the latest cellular technology. Over 560 million 5G-capable mobile phones will be sold in 2021, and by 2022 the number will surpass 900 million, accounting for almost 50% of all phones sold that year. The trend is being fuelled by enthusiastic phone-makers and telecom operators, keen to justify their investments in the technology. For these companies, their aim is to get customers onto 5G as quickly as possible with the promise of faster and more-reliable mobile connectivity.

Our expectations for 2022 and beyond are positive, but uncertainty remains. We continue to monitor the macroeconomic situation, component supplies, and above all the unpredictability of the ongoing global pandemic.

A summary of our forecast of the global mobile phone market is shown below.

To access CCS Insight’s full forecast report, which looks at the installed base of devices in total and split into smartphone and non-smartphone, splits by cellular technology and the global sell-in value, click here. If you’d like to learn more about this service, check out our mobile phone research suite.