In short: The global smartphone market is set to stagnate over the course of 2019 and won't be helped by either foldable handsets or 5G-enabled devices, DigiTimes Research reports. Annual worldwide shipments are hence expected to remain at 1.5 billion next year, though the decline in consumer demand may be put to an end as soon as 2020, primarily due to 5G connectivity that's bound to be much more ubiquitous by then, which should convince more people to invest in handsets with support for the next generation of wireless networks, the industry tracker forecasts.
As a result of that trend, global smartphone shipments should surpass 1.5 billion in 2019 and reach an all-time high of 1.7 billion in 2023, as per the same report. Samsung, Apple, Huawei, and Xiaomi should remain the top four vendors in 2019, in that order, with the most significant change coming in the form of HMD whose revived Nokia range is expected to surpass Meizu and claim the title of the eleventh-largest handset brand in the world.
Background: The world's first foldable handset is expected to be announced as early as next month, with Samsung being likely to win the bendable handset race. That particular product still likely won't be available for purchase prior to early 2019, which is when the first 5G-enabled smartphones are set to hit the market as well. Samsung, LG, Huawei, OPPO, Vivo, OnePlus, and several other manufacturers already confirmed working on 5G devices for 2019, with their releases coinciding with the initial deployment of the first 5G wireless networks in the United States.
Impact: The latest report confirms the massive decline in the smartphone industry recorded last year has now ended, though stagnation will apparently remain the name of the game in the immediate term. Regardless, handset manufacturers are expected to use this relatively quiet period to innovate and build on advancements they managed to deliver so far. In-display fingerprint readers, 3D imaging, foldable screens, and 5G connectivity are just some of the new features that are expected to debut or become much more prominent in the smartphone segment over the course of the next several years.