Sales of smartphones by value were down 20% during the first seven months of the year in Asia Pacific, the latest data shows.

The sector, which has consistently seen growth year after year, shrank to $119 billion between January and July, almost $30 billion less than the same period in 2019. Consumers in the region bought 329 million smartphones in the period, some 97 million fewer than the previous year.

Overall, 13 of the 16 markets tracked by market researchers GfK, recorded double-digit percentage falls. One outlier, however, was Taiwan, which managed anaemic growth of 1% over the period. The other 15 markets tracked saw falls in market value ranging from single digits in Indonesia (–4%) and Thailand (–7%), to the huge double-digit declines in India and Singapore (both –42%).

However, China, the first country affected by the pandemic, suffered less than many other markets and has already shown signs of a rebound. Sales there were down 15% between January and July, a far less severe drop than in Korea (–17%), Japan (–33%) and India (42%).

“The region’s smartphone market was hardest hit in the second quarter when many countries here entered lockdown mode,” noted Alexander Dehmel, Market Insights Lead APAC at GfK.

“This was also when we started observing new trends emerging and the corresponding shifts in consumer demand for durable goods,” he added.

“Based on the broad range of categories that GfK tracks, consumers started purchasing more products that support at-home requirements (working, cooking, entertainment), moving away from mobility-related gadgets such as smartphones and wearable devices,” Dehmel said.

On the upside, the GfK data shows an unabated appetite for 5G smartphones in the region, especially in China and Korea.

Market penetration of 5G-enabled phones reached 51% in China, and 40% in Korea in July. Hong Kong consumers show a similar enthusiasm, with 29% of smartphones sold there in July being 5G capable.

Another key trend was the rising popularity of smartphones in the low- to mid-price range at the expense of high-end models.

Phones priced between $100 and $200 remain the most popular in the region, making up 56% of the total market. But GfK analysts noted an evident shift in more developed markets from the $800+ price segment, to phones priced between $400 and $600.

Overall, observers expect some recovery in the market towards the end of the year and into 2021, but this will be dependent on how well COVID-19 is managed and controlled.

Sourced from GfK