2020 wasn't the best year for the smartphone industry, or perhaps for most of the global businesses as the COVID-19 pandemic affected human lives all around the world. Global smartphone shipment volume declined significantly this past year owing to the economic uncertainty around the still-ongoing health crisis. Now, according to a recent report by market research firm Counterpoint Research, the pandemic affected the refurbished smartphone market as well.
As per the report, the global shipments of refurbished smartphones declined nine percent year-on-year (YoY) in 2020. The YoY decline was much sharper at 16-percent in the first half of the year, when the world was at a standstill because of the pandemic.
As the year progressed and the lockdown measures against COVID-19 were eased, we started seeing some notable activity in the smartphone industry. Samsung, Google, and Apple all came out with their latest flagship offerings in the second half of 2020. As a result, both the new and refurbished smartphone market witnessed some recovery by the end of the year.
However, the damage caused early on means all major countries and regions showed a decline in smartphone shipments for the full year of 2020. Latin America witnessed a massive YoY decline of 19 percent in refurbished smartphone shipments. Markets across Europe, South East Asia, Africa, and China also saw a steep YoY decline.
Counterpoint Research says the Chinese refurbished smartphone market was also affected by the tensions between China and Hong Kong as well as the ongoing US-China trade war. "Many resellers in the secondary (refurbished) market ecosystem avoided China," said Research Director Jeff Fieldhack.
The refurbished smartphone market declined in 2020
The refurbished smartphone market is the secondary market in the smartphone industry. Refurbished smartphones are those that have been cleaned, repaired, and restored to function like a new device before being resold. Devices sold "as is" don't qualify as refurbished smartphones. Counterpoint Research hasn't included such resells in its report.
If you recall, another market research firm International Data Corporation (IDC) had estimated a YoY growth in the global used smartphone market in 2020. However, that report includes sales of both refurbished units as well as devices sold "as is". Since it's now much easier to sell used smartphones, the global used smartphones market is booming.
IDC said North America was the biggest market for used smartphones last year. Counterpoint Research also estimates a minor two percent YoY decline in refurbished smartphone sales in the US in 2020. The launch of the Apple iPhone 12 series in October resulted in this relatively positive trend in the US. It also helped the Cupertino giant increase its share in the secondary smartphone market from 39 percent to 42 percent.
The smartphone industry is already recovering this year. The trend will likely continue throughout the year after last year's slowdown. The growth in 5G adoption around the world should further boost the used smartphone market in the coming years.