Smartphone Sales Way Down, But Finding A Laptop Is Getting Harder

During the pandemic, consumers have cooled their spending on smartphones. But, also because of the pandemic, preliminary indications show laptop sales going gangbusters. Some school systems have been told to expect very long delays getting them for their students.

A Gartner research report on Tuesday reported that global smartphone sales dipped 20.4% in the second quarter, and that’s on top of a 20% decline in Q1.  

Samsung absorbed the brunt of that global trend. Gartner estimates Samsung sold just shy of 55 million smartphones in Q2, a decline of 27.1% year over year. That happened despite the heavy promotional push Samsung gave to its new flagship Galaxy S10 smartphones introduced this year.  

All things considered, Apple did well. Its sales were essentially flat, down just 0.4%, and Gartner said its sales actually increased in China. Otherwise, though, China’s pandemic-tinged economy greatly hampered smartphone sales there.

On the other end of the spectrum, sales of computers for home or school are increasing briskly. IDC preliminary research says worldwide Q2 sales were up 11.2% from a year ago. The research firm may report freshened figures later this week.

Some of the new sales rush reflects more people working from home and needing better equipment -- with workers perhaps realizing they'll be home for a longer haul than they originally thought.

Also, Chromebooks are a particularly hot item -- long a staple choice by school systems supplying students with their own computers and laptops.

The Associated Press reported that the world’s three largest manufacturers, Lenovo, HP and Dell, told some school districts they have a shortage of nearly 5 million laptops,  a problem that may be made much worse because of the Trump Administration’s trade war with China.

 As IDC noted, in the United States,  “While the first quarter was record-breaking for the lowest PC shipments seen in over a decade, the second quarter was record-breaking for the opposite reason. Volume may surpass 21 million units in the U.S." That hasn’t happened since 2009, IDC says. Again, it cautions, final figures will come later.

Gartner research director Mikako Kitagawa said, “Strong mobile PC demand in the U.S. was driven by shelter in place rules enforced as a response to the COVID-19 outbreak." She noted that while there was a boom in sales earlier in the pandemic that was expected to ebb, “many businesses continued to prepare for a potential resurgence of the virus, resulting in strong demand for mobile PCs as a precautionary measure.”

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