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Declining smartphone sales

Posted February. 24, 2018 07:44,   

Updated February. 24, 2018 07:44


Since the 2007 introduction of Apple's iPhone, smartphones have overwhelmingly led the trend of the global industry landscape and grew at such an explosive rate that the world’s population except for newborn babies seemed to be on the brink of being connected with one another. According to Gartner on Friday, global smartphone sales reached 408 million units as of the fourth quarter of last year, marking a 5.6 percent decline year-on-year. This is the first time sales go down since the firm started tracking in 2004.

A fall in smartphone sales is partly due to the increased use of feature phones. In India, where people prefer quality, low-cost feature phones over expensive smartphones, the sales of feature phones saw a 17 percent growth year-on-year in 2017. Because of a big physical keypad, feature phones are also popular among many elderly citizens in Korea. Reflecting the rising popularity of feature phones, Finland’s Nokia last year resumed the sales of its feature phone model “3310,” whose production had been discontinued earlier in 2005.

To be sure, the main reason behind declining smartphone sales is the lengthened replacement cycle. As of last year, Korean smartphone users replaced their phones after every 31 months on average. The cycle of U.S. smartphone users was also extended by 2.2 months in four years to 22.7 months in 2017. This signifies that nowadays, users cannot find reasons to frequently change their smartphones as new models no longer have novel, groundbreaking functions and are similar with one another.

In the end, the future of smartphones depends on whether manufacturers can offer innovative products. The introduction of 5G network, which is 280 times faster than the current 4G LTE, will encourage users to replace their smartphones. We already have AI-embedded smartphones, which can serve as the user’s personal secretary, working on voice commands such as “Bixby” of Samsung Electronics. China’s ZTE has also unveiled a foldable phone, which has two separate displays joined together by a hinge. It is said that there is no permanent loser in the market, and smartphones are not an exception. We hope that Korean companies take the lead in reigniting the sparks of the global smartphone market by surprising the world with innovative products.

Se-Jin Jung mint4a@donga.com