Deluxe smartphones show market strength, pandemic be damned

One example of a premium smartphone is the foldable Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3, which goes for a cool $1,800 with 512 GB of storage. (Samsung)

The pandemic and the Delta variant haven’t kept back interest in premium smartphones, those priced at above $1,000, according to IDC.

Some of the current deluxe models can run to $1,800 fully loaded, the price of a new PC with various features.

IDC research director Anthony Scarsella on Monday said premium models continued to grow in the second quarter with 116% growth from the same period last year, which was a down year over 2019.

Also, average selling prices for all smartphones are up 9% as buyers want more costly 5G models, rather than entry-level ones, he said.

Top premium phones can go much higher than $1,000 with the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3, 5G with 512 GB topping out at $1,799.99.   An Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max with 5G and 512 GB tops out at $1,416.

"Many consumers have more disposable income during the pandemic," Scarsella said via email to Fierce Electronics. "Most are not going on vacation, partaking in fine dining and spending on other forms of nightlife.  As a result tech spending across the board, not just smartphones, has significantly benefited throughout the pandemic."

Scarsella added that higher-priced 5G devices are being heavily promoted with cost-cutting mechanisms such as device trade-in, financing and incentives for switching carriers. 

Apple is expected to launch its next iPhone, either named the iPhone 12S or iPhone 13, as early as September 24 after an announcement possibly on Sept. 14, according to Forbes.  An upgraded A15 chip is expected, along with more battery life.

5G phones are a primary driver of 2021 growth. The average selling price of a 5G smartphone is $634 in 2021, while 4G devices go for $206 on average, a 30% decline. 5G shipments will grow to 570 million in 2021, up 123% from 2020.

For all smartphones, shipments are expected to grow 7.4% in 2021, reaching 1.37 billion phones. That 7.4% growth is attributed to a 14% growth from iOS devices and 6.2% growth from Android. In the second quarter alone, Apple iPhones gerw 18% year-over-year.

Shipments of smartphones in 2020 reached 1.292 billion, IDC said in an earlier report. The 2020 level was down 6% over 2019 when shipments reached 1.372 billion, according to IDC records. At the current rate, 2021 will prove to be almost even with 2019.

Top models globally in second quarter were the iPhone 12 Pro Max and the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra.

idc smartphone forecast

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