COVID-19 forces phone, PC decline of nearly 2 billion units

group of people with smartphones
It's only a forecast: Gartner says shipments of mobile phones, PCs and related devices will drop nearly 14% in 2020 because of the pandemic. All the extra WFH prevented the PC slide from behind much worse and 5G phone shipments are down, partly because networks aren't widespread enough, Gartner added. (Getty Images)

Because of COVID-19, PCs, tablet, and mobile phones are expected to decline by nearly 2 billion units in 2020 over last year, a decline of 13.6%, analyst firm Gartner said Tuesday.

That’s the case even though work from home (WFH) and school from home due to the pandemic forced purchases of more notebooks, Chromebooks and tablets, Gartner analyst Ranjit Atwal said. Without that push, the decline in the PC market could have been much worse, he added.

PC shipments for the year will drop by more than 10%, while total mobile phone shipments will decline nearly 15%, including a nearly 14% decline for smartphones.

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Gartner also predicted that 48% of employees will likely WFH at least part-time after the pandemic, up from 30% pre-pandemic. The WFH trend will force business notebooks to displace desk-based PCs through 2022.

Users have increased use of their mobile phones to be sure during the pandemic. However, reduced disposable income will result in fewer phone upgrades, Atwal said. Phone lifetimes will jump from 2.5 years in 2018 to 2.7 years in 2020.

Gartner reduced the total of 5G mobile phones to be shipped in 2020, now put at 11% of the total of all mobile phone shipments. Overall mobile phones, nearly 1.5 billion will ship in 2020, down from more than 1.7 billion in 2019.

“Delayed delivery of some 5G flagship phones is an ongoing issue,” according to Annette Zimmermann of Gartner.  “Moreover, the lack of 5G geographical coverage along with the increasing cost of the 5G phone contract will impact the choice of a 5G phone.”

Even with Gartner’s downward forecast for devices, analyst firm VLSI last week tracked a 17% increase in second quarter semiconductor sales globally.

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