The rest of the world might be working its way through a smartphone slump, but 5G is providing the catalyst for growth in the Chinese markets.
With the high street closed and the consumer tightening purse strings in preparation for what is increasingly promising to be a painful recession, smartphone shipments have been hit hard over the last few weeks, however, China seems to have turned a corner.
According to new statistics from the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology (CAICT), smartphone shipments have bounced back very enthusiastically in April, with 5G-compatible devices taking a very respectable share of the bounty. Year-on-year, mobile phone shipments were up 14.2% to 41.7 million across the month.
40.8 million smartphones were shipped during the period, accounting for 97.7% of total shipments, with more than 16.4 million being 5G-compatible devices. It almost seems like an unbelievable number, but 39.3% of the total smartphone shipments in China across April were 5G devices.
It has long been suspected that the Chinese assault on the 5G market would be a slow burner with sustained aggression. We have already seen China embrace 5G, China Mobile claimed to have 15.4 million 5G subscriptions during its last earnings call, and this enthusiasm will surely be sustained as the world returns to normal.
The question which remains is how much normality is there inside China currently? There have been murmurs of a potential second wave in the country, and the CAICT has already commented on the impact to 5G supply chains during the initial stages of the coronavirus pandemic.
Of course, it is also worth highlighting that this might only be the early adopter wave of purchasing in the country. The numbers seem incredibly large, but you always have to remember the total population of China is roughly 1.41 billion. 16.4 million is only a scratch on the potential of 5G shipments in the country.
If this is the early adopter phase of 5G smartphones, the question is how long do we have to wait for the mass market to catch on? Some might have assumed it would have been in the months following, but with 5G set back elsewhere around the world, it might be a bit more staggered.
Adoption by the mass market is more than simply having devices available. You have to have affordable devices, a market for second-hand devices, a plethora of applications to validate purchases, data tariffs which are cheap enough to ensure the full power of 5G is utilised and also a stable economy for consumer confidence to be high enough.
The global economy is having a bit of a wobble right now which is likely to have a staggering impact on the rollout of 5G around the world. There are a lot of moving parts, all of which have to function together. 16.4 million might sound like a very high number of 5G smartphone shipments, but it is probably still the early adopter wave.