The New Zealand smartphone market has been a lucky recipient of a post-pandemic peak trend in the local community and business landscape to upgrade and refresh digital devices as reliance on them surges.
According to the latest Asia Pacific Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker report by analyst firm IDC, New Zealand smartphone shipments rebounded sharply from a year ago, as the market recorded its highest quarter of annual growth since the fourth quarter in 2013.
Local shipments increased by 30.1 per cent, year-on-year (YoY), in the first quarter of 2021 to reach 319,000 units. This total compares to 245,000 units in the first quarter of 2020, as the pandemic began to restrict the supply of shipments to NZ.
When measured against 2019’s first quarter figure of 305,000 units, the result was also up 4 per cent, the analyst firm said.
"As the reliance on devices such as smartphones and PCs has grown post-pandemic, consumers have naturally looked to upgrade and refresh their devices at an increasing rate," said Maxim Wilson, IDC associate market analyst for the New Zealand mobile devices market.
According to IDC, Kiwis continued to allocate their discretionary spend to smartphones, in particular, flagship models. Such buying saw YoY revenue grow by 34 per cent in the first quarter of 2021, as the ultra-premium segment – US$1000 and above – accounted for 30 per cent of shipments in the first quarter.
On the topic of premium devices, the growth in 5G handset shipments was a key trend in the first quarter, according to IDC, with vendors beginning the year releasing a variety of 5G devices, including OPPO's Find X3 range and Samsung’s Galaxy S21 range.
As a result, 46 per cent of total smartphone shipments were 5G capable, representing a 424 per cent increase from last year’s figures.
This was, noted Wilson, reflective of the push globally from larger vendors to deploy 5G devices across various geographies.
"The NZ mobile network operators have had greater focus on 5G fixed wireless broadband rather than mobile services. However, with several 5G devices launching in the market and greater expansion of 5G coverage, we expect to see stronger adoption for 5G smartphones in the coming quarters,” he said.
Indeed, IDC anticipates 5G-capable handset market share to pass 50 per cent by the second quarter of this year, as Android vendors launch devices in the mid-range price bands.
During the quarter, two longtime global smartphone leaders, Apple and Samsung, accounted for 84 per cent of the smartphone market, a record combined share in New Zealand, according to IDC.
At least part of this result was due to new premium models the iPhone 12 and Galaxy S21, released in January 2021, which both exceeded expectations as Kiwi consumers flocked in numbers to buy the new flagship devices.
The result could also have had something to do with the gap that Chinese telco equipment maker Huawei has left in the market as the vendor pivots away from smartphones. This has presented an opportunity for other competitors, particularly in the Android space, IDC said.
As reported in April, global smartphone sales have been on a steep upward curve again as consumer appetites return to “healthy” levels amid coronavirus vaccine roll-outs across the world.
IDC estimates that smartphone vendors shipped nearly 346 million devices during the first quarter of 2021, a rise of 25.5 per cent year-on-year. Asia Pacific – excluding China and Japan – saw some of the strongest global growth, experiencing 28 per cent year-over-year growth, respectively.