Like most sectors, the mobile phone industry was hit hard by the pandemic- something that has become evident by the fact that the shipment of mobile phones dropped by almost 11% in 2020. However, it looks like the worst is behind us, as market research firm Gartner has predicted that the industry will be able to overcome this setback in 2021 and global smartphone sales would rise by 11.4% to 1.5 billion units, close to pre-2020 levels.

Anshul Gupta, senior research director at Gartner, said, “In 2020, consumers reduced spending on smartphones, but the availability of new products, will see users drive a significant uptick in demand in 2021. The combination of delayed smartphone replacements and the availability of lower end 5G smartphones are poised to increase smartphone sales in 2021.” The sales of smartphones are expected to do a complete rebound in 2021.

It is expected that the Asia-Pacific region, Western Europe, Latin America will show the greatest growth between 2020 and 2021.

This rise in the sales of smartphones in 2021 can be attributed to the growing availability of 5G networks and a higher variety of 5G smartphones. The global sales of 5G smartphones is expected to account for 35% of smartphone sales, shipping around 539 million units. 5G is expected to be the herald for the overall sales growth of mobile phones this year and lead the way, aided by the wider application of 5G and the launch of more 5G mobile phones.

Gartner announced, “The growing availability of 5G networks coupled with a higher variety of 5G smartphones starting at $200 will steer demand in mature markets and China. Demand in emerging countries will be driven by buyers looking for a smartphone with better specifications and a 5G connectivity as an optional feature. Gartner forecasts sales of 5G smartphones will total 539 million units worldwide in 2021, which will represent 35% of total smartphone sales in that year.” It also said that Chinese consumers were more active in choosing 5G mobile phones.

“5G is now a standard feature in premium smartphones, especially in the U.S., China, Japan, and South Korea,” Gartner noted. “Driven by lower-cost models, adoption is particularly aggressive in China, where 5G smartphone share is on pace to reach 59.5% in 2021. In addition, lower end 5G smartphones, which are becoming more prevalent outside China, are poised to drive more momentum for 5G smartphones in 2021 across all regions.”

This is not surprising at all, as 5G was expected to bring a boom to the deteriorating smartphone market in 2020. However, the pandemic and subsequently affected supply chains thwarted those plans, and caused a massive slowdown in the industry. With supply chains easing up, 5G will most probably still be a deciding factor and throttle the industry, even if it comes one year after it was initially expected.