The smartphone supply chain is continuing to feel the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak. Owing to hindrances such as uneven factory work resumption statuses, a generally low rate of returning labor, and breaks in logistics and transportation, the supply chain has not been recovering as previously expected. The outbreak’s impact is projected to last 1-3 months, and the supply chain will not recover to normal levels until the second half of March at the earliest. Therefore, TrendForce is further reducing its previous projection of 1Q20 smartphone production from the pre-outbreak forecast of 307 million units to 270 million units, a 13.3% decrease YoY.
In terms of 1Q20 demand, sluggish Lunar New Year sell-through in the Chinese smartphone market led to excessively high stocks in the sales channels. On the other hand, the outbreak has spread to more than 70 countries since the second half of February, in turn affecting the global economy and, by extension, smartphone sales in the overseas markets. TrendForce holds a relatively conservative outlook towards the 2Q20 global smartphone market, with about 318 million units produced, an increase QoQ, but a 7.4% decrease YoY.
TrendForce anticipates that, assuming the outbreak can be contained by the end of 2Q20, the demand for smartphones will go into a noticeable upswing in 2H20. Furthermore, with the release of 5G and multi-camera phones, 2020 global smartphone production is expected to reach 1.35 billion units (pre-outbreak forecast: 1.41 billion), a 3.5% decrease YoY.
Slowdown of 5G subsidies in China may defer demand for 5G handsets
Notably, the government of China, which is the leading market in terms of 5G development, is allocating most of its current budget to disease prevention and stabilization, potentially reducing 5G telecom funding. Also, since 5G infrastructure is not yet widespread, and new applications of the technology yet remain in their infancy, consumers have taken a wait-and-see approach regarding 5G smartphones. On the other hand, as the outbreak considerably affected the global economy, the general public has conservatized its disposable incomes, thus deferring the demand for 5G. TrendForce is thus revising its 2020 5G smartphone production forecast from 250 million units down to 200 million units, with a 15% penetration rate in the overall smartphone market.
Should the outbreak intensify, market demand will become the most important consideration in the long-term analysis of the smartphone industry. Because of the interconnectedness of the global economy, the progression of outbreak damages not only China’s GDP, but also the overall global economy, leading to a cutback in consumer purchasing power and contracting the overall smartphone industry – including 5G– even further.