04 Jun 2021
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The NZ smartphone market reaches new heights due to pandemic

By Ryan Morris-Reade

IDC marks the highest annual growth in 7 Years for New Zealand’s smartphone market.

New Zealand’s smartphone market has bounced back as it recorded its highest quarter of annual growth since 2013. According to the latest IDC Asia/Pacific Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, New Zealand smartphone shipments increased 30.1% year-on-year in the first quarter of 2021, reaching 319,000 units. 

This compares to 245,000 units in 2020’s first quarter when the pandemic started to have an effect on supply shipments to NZ. When measured against 2019’s first-quarter figure of 305,000 units, the results were up 4%.

"As reliance on devices such as smartphones and PCs has grown post-pandemic, consumers have been upgrading and refreshing their devices at an increasing rate," says New Zealand Mobile Devices Market analyst, Maxim Wilson. 

“Kiwis continued to allocate their discretionary spend to smartphones, in particular, flagship models. This increased buying saw year-on-year revenue growth of 34% in the first quarter of 2021, as the ultra-premium segment accounted for 30% of shipments.”

Apple and Samsung accounted for 84% of the smartphone market in the first quarter, a record combined share in New Zealand. And premium models, such as the iPhone 12 and Galaxy S21 exceeded expectations, as NZ consumers flocked in numbers to buy the new flagship devices. The supply of these models also held up despite the strong demand for high-end phones.

IDC says the record combined market share from Apple and Samsung show the gap Huawei has left in the market, as the Chinese vendor moves away from smartphones. It says this has created an opportunity for other competitors, particularly in the Android space. 

Motorola has introduced more competitive smartphone offerings in the lower-end segment, as it seeks to compete with Samsung and OPPO, and Vodafone has been gaining a share in the sub-NZ$150 price band. Xiaomi, the third-largest smartphone vendor globally, has a small share in the Australia/New Zealand market. Its success in Europe, however, highlights the untapped potential in the Oceania region.

The growth in 5G handset shipments was a notable trend in 2021. Vendors began the year releasing a variety of 5G devices, including OPPO's Find X3 range and Samsung's Galaxy S21 range. As a result, 46% of total smartphone shipments were 5G capable, a large 424% increase from a year ago. 

“There has been a push globally from larger vendors as they deploy 5G devices across geographies,” says Wilson. 

“NZ mobile network operators have had a greater focus on 5G fixed wireless broadband 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.”

IDC says 5G capable share is set to pass 50% in 2021’s second quarter, as Android vendors launch devices in the mid-range price bands. The average selling price for 5G capable devices was NZ$1550 in the first quarter. IDC expects this to drop by at least 20% in the second quarter.

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