2022 iPhone shipments fell 14.9% in the holiday quarter – good news!

2022 iPhone shipments fell 14.9% year-on-year during the holiday quarter, and shipments for the calendar year were also down by 4%, according to the latest IDC data.

However, while that doesn’t look like great news, Apple actually fared better than any other brand in both the quarter, and across the year as a whole…

Market intelligence company IDC said that the final quarter of last year experienced the biggest decline in smartphone shipments ever seen in a single quarter, and that the year as a whole was the lowest number seen since 2013.

Worldwide smartphone shipments declined 18.3% year over year to 300.3 million units in the fourth quarter of 2022 (4Q22), according to preliminary data from the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker. The drop marks the largest-ever decline in a single quarter and contributed to a steep 11.3% decline for the year. 2022 ended with shipments of 1.21 billion units, which represents the lowest annual shipment total since 2013 due to significantly dampened consumer demand, inflation, and economic uncertainties.

Indeed, said IDC, holiday quarter shipments were actually lower than in Q3 – the first time that has ever happened.

“We have never seen shipments in the holiday quarter come in lower than the previous quarter. However, weakened demand and high inventory caused vendors to cut back drastically on shipments,” said Nabila Popal, research director with IDC’s Worldwide Tracker team.

“Heavy sales and promotions during the quarter helped to deplete existing inventory rather than drive shipment growth. Vendors are increasingly cautious in their shipments and planning while realigning their focus on profitability.

Even Apple, which thus far was seemingly immune, suffered a setback in its supply chain with unforeseen lockdowns at its key factories in China. What this holiday quarter tells us is that rising inflation and growing macro concerns continue to stunt consumer spending even more than expected.”

iPhone shipments in Q4 declined 14.9% year-on-year – but all other brands saw their own shipments fall even further. From Samsung at 15.6% down, to Xiaomi down 26.3%. The overall fall across all brands was 18.3%.

It’s a similar story when it comes to the year as a whole. 2022 iPhone shipments were down 4%, but once more all other brands experienced bigger drops – from Samsung at 4.1%, to Vivo at 22.8%. The decline across all smartphone brands was 11.3%.

So far, analysts have been expecting 2023 to be a year of recovery, with smartphone shipments forecast to rise by 2.8%, but IDC says this looks uncertain, for three reasons.

First, consumer spending remains cautious. With high inflation, and widespread layoffs, many are choosing to be careful with their money, and luxury spending is not high on most people’s lists at present.

Second, smartphone makers are being equally cautious, and either keeping their lineups static, or actually reducing the number of models offered. Apple tends to do iPhone planning several years out, so it is likely stuck with a Plus model this year, even though all the signs point to very low demand. But it’s possible that there will be just three flagship iPhone models in the 2024 lineup.

Third, retailers are reducing the size of their orders in order to avoid the risk of being left with unsold inventory.

IDC says that if we to see any smartphone growth this year, it’s likely to be primarily driven by discounting and deals, not by organic growth.

Photo: RH Lee/Unsplash

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Naveen Kumar

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