The smartphone market is an intriguing one at the moment.

Globally the trend has seen far fewer devices shipping each quarter as consumers are simply not buying phones in the quantities they did previously, which has forced manufacturers to become more innovative in their design and features approach.

Taking a look at the South African market is GfK, with the research firm recently releasing their Weekly Monitor, tracking data around smartphones for the first quarter of 2019, and it too makes for interesting reading.

More specifically they discovered that smartphone unit sales fell seven percent year-on-year this quarter, but the market as a whole rose by three percent. This as consumers opted to purchase larger high-end devices with bigger displays, to the tune of R8.6 billion according to GfK’s figures.

“The smartphone market showed a marked slowdown in the first quarter of 2019, with fewer than three million units sold during this timeframe,” notes Kali Moahloli, commercial head for market insights at GfK South Africa.

“Though absolute unit sales numbers are down, the migration of users towards large-screen devices with high-end features has driven revenue growth for smartphone manufacturers and retailers. With smartphones emerging as the primary Internet access device, higher-end consumers are seeking a better user experience for web browsing, video and other applications,” he adds.

Delving into GfK’s report, it is the tablets market (which is included with smartphones as part of mobile devices) that is driving things down, with sales in this segment dropping a massive 22 percent.

GfK’s data further shows that the high-end market is what is driving smartphone sales in the country, with prices for these kinds of devices up 11 percent year-on-year. It therefore appears that a segment of South African consumers are willing to pay this premium.

Personally we find these stats quite intriguing, especially as the number of great vale for money offerings in the mid-range space would seem far more tempting in our opinion given the continually rising price of flagship phones.

With foldable phones (Samsung in particular) already getting off to a rocky start, and the tablet market only set to further decline, it should be interesting to see how the smartphone market for the rest of the year performs.

Will consumers continue to be willing to buy more expensive premium devices in 2019? We’ll let GfK crunch the numbers on that one for us.

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