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Smartphones Gain Traction

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The pandemic, the arrival of 5G networking, lower pricing, and continued improvements in mobile platforms sparked utility interest in smartphones. In fact, sales of the devices showed their highest increase since 2015, and the near term forecast is also optimistic.

Cell phones are mature market, with devices having shipped for more than a decade.  

Yet, shipments are expected to reach 1.38 billion units in 2021, an increase of 7.7% over 2020, the largest year-over-year growth the market has witnessed since 2015, according to the International Data Corp. (IDC).

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One driver has been a strong supply-side push toward 5G networks, which have been rolling out quickly. These networks were designed from the found up to support remote devices and mesh nicely with smartphones. In fact, 5G cellphone shipments expected to grow nearly 130% in 2021, according to IDC.

In addition, competition has forced pricing downward. For instance, the average selling prices (ASPs) for 5G Android devices is expected to drop 12% year over year in 2021 to $456, according to IDC.

Also, utilities are trying to smooth out the friction long seen in their business applications. Increasingly, they offer customers the ability to contact and interact with them via smartphones, which are easy to use for the consumer and more efficient for the utility.

Workforce automation is another area where smartphones gained traction. These solutions empower employees, so they take full advantage of multi-touch capabilities to navigate through complex processes, like servicing a transformer, more easily. They also enter data directly in the field rather than filing paper reports once they return to the office.

Possible Hurdles Remain

A few caveats remain and could slow growth. The global semiconductor shortage remains a concern. The pandemic wreaked havoc with global supply chains as restrictions were put in place to slow the virus’ spread. Many industries are still struggling to smooth out the friction created.

Yet IDC is optimistic and projects that year-over-year growth will be 3.8% and shipments total 1.43 billion in 2022.

Smartphones are a mature technology that has become a utility industry cornerstone. Before the pandemic, sales slowed, and growth was minimal. The pandemic, emergence of 5G network, lower pricing, and software advances boosted sales in 2021 and are expected to prop up sales in the immediate future.


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