NONETHELESS, the latest data suggests the days of red-hot smartphone growth are over and that sluggish growth or contraction is likely in many saturated markets.

Apple recently reported a rare drop in revenue in the fourth quarter. South Korea's Samsung, the largest smartphone maker, reported a slump in the fourth-quarter net profits, blaming a drop in demand for its key products.

''Globally the smartphone market is a mess right now,'' said IDC analyst Ryan Reith.

''Outside of a handful of  high-growth markets like India, Indonesia, South Korea and Vietnam, we did not see a lot of positive activity in 2018.

DURING a recent earnings call, Apple chief executive Tim Cook agreed that people were holding onto their iPhones longer.

Cook contended that another reason for slower iPhone sales was that telecom carriers were cutting subsidies of handsets tied to the service contracts, meaning customers were faced with paying full price of $1,000  or more for high-end models.

''People don't want to spend another $1,000 to replace something that isn't broken,'' analyst Enderle maintained.

''In emerging markets you can't get people to pay a quarter of their monthly income for; they are not giving up for texting.''

In an unusual move, Apple lowered prices in some emerging markets to offset the effects of a strong US dollar on local pocketbooks.

However, Chinese smartphone makers such as Huawei, Oppo, and Xiaomi defied the trend and ended this year with gains, according to Counterpoint Research.

This year, smartphone makers will likely entice customers to upgrade devices with innovations such as  superfast 5G network connectivity and foldable screens, according to Counterpoint associate director Tarun Pathak. [Agencies]


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