Smartphone Production Fell to About 289 Million Units for 3Q22 as Demand Was Not Sufficient to Offset Inventory Pressure and Economic Headwinds, Says TrendForce

According to TrendForce’s latest research, global smartphone production totaled around 289 million units for 3Q22, showing a slight QoQ drop of 0.9% and a YoY drop of 11%. The smartphone market thus exhibited an extremely weak demand situation as the “iron law” of positive growth in the third quarter was broken after being in effect for years. The contraction of smartphone production during this year’s peak season was mainly attributed to smartphone brands giving priority to consumption of channel inventory for whole devices and maintaining a fairly conservative production plan for 3Q22. Moreover, they had kept lowering their production targets due to strong global economic headwinds.

Regarding the performances of the major smartphone brands in 3Q22, Samsung posted around 64.2 million units in device production, showing a QoQ increase of just 3.9%. This was the result of the brand scaling back production since 2Q22 and maintaining a conservative outlook on the future market situation. Due to persistent inventory pressure, Samsung is expected to again post a QoQ decline for 4Q22. In the aspect of product development, Samsung has been the leader in foldable smartphones. This year, the global market share of foldable smartphones is estimated to reach 1.1%; and within this segment, Samsung is expected to hold a market share of almost 90%. As for 2023, the global market share of foldable smartphones is forecasted to climb to 1.5%, and Samsung is forecasted to retain a market share of almost 80% in the segment.

Apple posted 50.8 million units in iPhone production for 3Q22, showing a stable growth trend. Apple had benefited from the reallocation of the demand that were originally going to Huawei’s smartphones as well as the optimal pricing for the new iPhone models, Furthermore, the third quarter is usually the production ramp-up period as Apple intends to push sales of the new iPhone models to their peak in the fourth quarter. Following the release of the iPhone 14 series, much of the demand for the new iPhone models has been tilted towards the Pro subseries. Accordingly, Apple has also adjusted the share distribution of the different new models in iPhone production. However, Foxconn’s EMS base in the Chinese city of Zhengzhou has recently experienced a drop in capacity utilization rate due to a local COVID-19 outbreak. Since the base is also Apple’s main site for manufacturing the iPhone Pro models, this incident will impact the total iPhone production in 4Q22.

Following Samsung at first and Apple at Second, the ranking of the top five global smartphone brands by production for 3Q22 is rounded out by Xiaomi, OPPO, and Vivo at third, fourth, and fifth respectively. In this ranking, Xiaomi encompasses its sub-brands Redmi, POCO, and Black Shark; OPPO includes Realme and OnePlus; and Vivo also takes account of iQoo. Among them, only Xiaomi maintained about the same device production volume compared with the previous quarter, whereas the other two recorded a QoQ drop. All of them have been constrained in raising production during the second half of this year due to the pressure to correct excess inventory. They also have to deal with COVID-19 lockdowns in the home market and the recent deceleration of India’s economic growth. Moving into 4Q22, these three Chinese brands are expected to post mostly flat growth in device production.

Looking further ahead, Xiaomi, OPPO, and Vivo will be facing significant challenges. First, China as their home and primary market is already highly saturated. The enforcement of the zero-COVID policy by the Chinese government has further caused a freeze in domestic demand during the recent period. At the same time, Honor has emerged to pose a direct threat in the competition for domestic market share. To maintain growth, Xiaomi, OPPO, and Vivo will have to concentrate on overseas expansions while retaining their domestic market shares.

To Escape Fallout from US-China Dispute, Chinese Smartphone Brands Will Support Strengthening of Domestic Supply Chain by Developing Their Own Chips

Samsung, Apple, and Huawei have been self-developing chips such as mobile SOC in order to maintain a loyal group of customers and provide effective market positioning for their high-end device models. And because these three brands have been able to generate additional values with in-house components, the other major Chinese brands are now following their footsteps and committed to maintaining teams dedicated to chip design. Xiaomi, for instance, has developed the mobile SoC Pengpai S1, the imaging processing chip Pengpai C1, and the 120W fast-charging chip Pengpai P1. OPPO, too, has unveiled a discrete ISP named MariSilicon X and is expected to introduce an in-house AP in 1Q24. As for Vivo, it has launched the V1 and V2 chipsets as solutions for optimizing the image processing algorithm of the smartphone camera. Looking at these examples, TrendForce believes that while Chinese brands are using in-house chips to raise their profiles, their more important aim is to strengthen the domestic supply chain as China and the US are now locked in an escalating geopolitical competition.

Regarding the state of the smartphone market in 4Q22, the results from the recent promotional events related to China’s Singles’ Day reveal that smartphone brands have not been particularly effective in spurring devices sales by lowering prices. Consumer confidence on the whole has been heavily impacted by various economic headwinds. TrendForce estimates that global smartphone production will total around 316 million units for 4Q22, translating to a QoQ growth of 9.3%. A YoY comparison will still show a decline. TrendForce points out that the smartphone market started to show signs of weakening in 3Q21. Since then, it has recorded six straight quarters of YoY decline in device production. Demand will eventually return when the correction of channel inventory is mostly completed, but this turnaround is expected to occur no earlier than 2Q23.

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