More than 13 million new smartphones were sold in South Africa last year – and almost two-thirds cost less than R1,500

Business Insider SA
The Huawei Y3 2018 LTE Smartphone, which is currently on sale for R1,449 on Takealot. As Samsung and iPhone sales faulter, Huawei has seen 37% growth in smartphone sales in the last quarter of 2018.
  • The number of South African smartphones sold increased by more than 7% last year, compared to sales growth of 1% worldwide.
  • Some 90% of local phones sold cost less than R6,000.
  • Apple and Samsung sales cooled worldwide, while Huawei showed massive growth.

Some 13.5 million new smartphones were sold in South Africa last year – 7.2% more than the previous year.

This was far stronger than worldwide smartphone sales, which only grew by 1.1%, according to the IT research firm Gartner.

A new study by GfK South Africa shows that R35 billion in smartphones were sold in South Africa last year - the value of sales was 13% more than the previous year.

High-end smartphones (which cost more than R6,000) accounted for less than 10% of the unit sales – but represented half of the value of the sales. Some 61% of the sales were of low-end smartphones (R1,499 and below), which accounted for 61% of unit sales in 2018, but contributed just 17% to the value of the market. 

The number of new smartphones in 2018 sold in South Africa were equal to the total number of smartphone users in the Netherlands (13.5 million), and much more than the total number of smartphone users in countries like the UAE (7.8 million) and Sweden (7.9 million). South Africa  has an estimated 23 million smartphone users - more than a third of the total population.

GfK reports that the number of units sold in South Africa fell by almost 9% to 3,6 million in the fourth quarter.

The dip in the fourth quarter indicates that operators chose to focus on value over unit sales over the Black Friday and Christmas period, says Nicolet Pienaar of GfK South Africa.

"Operators reduced or pulled subsidies on entry-level smartphones in the fourth quarter, which caused unit sales to contract,” says Kali Moahloli, also at GfK South Africa. “This segment of the market remains price-sensitive rather than feature-driven.”

Worldwide sales of smartphones grew by only 0.1% in the fourth quarter to 408 million units, Gartner reported. Apple recorded its worst quarterly sales decline (11.8%) since the first quarter of 2016.

“Demand for entry-level and midprice smartphones remained strong across markets, but demand for high-end smartphones continued to slow in the fourth quarter of 2018,” said Anshul Gupta, senior research director at Gartner. “Slowing incremental innovation at the high end, coupled with price increases, deterred replacement decisions for high-end smartphones. This led to a flat-growth market in the fourth quarter of 2018.”

Gartner says Samsung smartphones such as the Galaxy S9, S9+ and Note9 struggled, while Xiaomi and Huawei continued to grab more market share.

In the fourth quarter of 2018 Huawei sold over 60 million smartphones - 38% more than a year before, the strongest growth of the quarter among the top five global smartphone vendors.

Source: Gartner

“Huawei also exploited growth opportunities through continued expansion of the Honor series in the second half of 2018, especially in emerging markets, which helped Huawei grow its market share to 13.0 per cent in 2018.”

A total of 88.5 million smartphones were sold in Sub-Saharan Africa last year – almost 6% of the total worldwide sales, according to Gartner.

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