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Smartphone sales shrink universally

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Gartner, a research company on technology, has revealed that what looked like an issue singularly effecting iPhone X; shrinking sales figures, is actually a global matter. According to the company, global sales of smartphones fell by 5.8 percent in Q4, 2017 compared to the same period in 2016.

For 13 years, smartphone sales have sharply risen. The trend defied the olds through the 2007-2008 great recession. After 51 successful quarters, looks like the honeymoon is over. This is surprising because it comes at a time untapped markets for smartphones across India, China and Africa abound.

According to Gartner, several reasons exist for the downward trajectory and chief amongst these is that upgrade from feature phones to smartphones has stalled because technology companies have failed to satisfy the quest for quality yet ultra-low-cost smartphones.

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Users of smartphones are careful by choosing quality and durable models that they can keep for longer. This has had the effect of lengthening the replacement cycle of smartphones.

While 4G connectivity and better camera features have been alluring users to upgrade, smartphone makers have not endeavoured to offer meaningful incremental benefits in these areas, weakening smartphone sales.

Since 2016, starting with Samsung Galaxy Note 7, newer phones seem to be plagued with more problems than older models. After the Note 7 battery fiasco came the iPhone drop of calls. The buying public cannot guess what will come next. This trend forces customers to adopt the “let’s wait and see” attitude before jumping into an upgrade.

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Smartphones have been getting thinner yet users have been demanding better battery life. That is almost an oxymoron; the bigger the battery the better. This explains why companies such as Samsung got into serious troubles in trying to squeeze a bigger battery into a slim smartphone.

While integration of carrots in form of digital assistants such as Siri, Hello Google and Cortana are appealing, these have not quenched the thirst for performance gains, faster storage and dramatic screen resolution.

In Q4, 2017, Apple sold 73,175.2 thousand smartphones against 77,038.9 thousand smartphones sold in Q4, 2016. This represents a percent drop in sales. Samsung sales also declined, though slightly; the company shipped 74,782.6 thousand smartphones compared to 76, 782.6 thousand it sold in Q4 2016.

Surprisingly the Chinese smartphone manufacturers registered impressive gains. Xiaomi bagged in 78 percent growth while Huawei achieved 7.56 percent. Overall, smartphone sales globally grew by a meagre two perecent in 2017. This is in sharp contrast to the impressive growth that smartphones have enjoyed over the years.

This trend resembles the descending road that laptops and desktops took. The PCs lost the battle to smartphones and tablets because its creators failed to build them enthralling enough to act as magnets to drive upgrade cycles.

Now smartphones seem to be suffering from what made them more attractive than PCs. Where do we go from here? It about time they went back to the drawing board.

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