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Coronavirus outbreak drops smartphone industry into worst-ever plunge

The new coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, continues to affect the tech industry, with smartphone shipments suffering the worst-ever fall in February.

According to independent research and consulting firm Strategy Analytics, smartphone shipments declined 38% year over year in February 2020 to 61.8 million units, from 99.2 million units in the same month of 2019. Strategy Analytics executive director said that this was “the biggest fall ever” in the history of the global smartphone market, as the supply and demand of smartphones plunged in China, across Asia, and the rest of the world.

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Strategy Analytics director Linda Sui unsurprisingly attributed the crash to the COVID-19 pandemic, as certain factories in Asia that manufacture smartphones were shut down, while potential customers did not buy new devices because they avoided retail stores or were focused on acquiring other essential needs. The decline was not just on expensive or cheaper models, but across all price bands, Sui told CNBC in an email.

Bleak outlook for smartphone industry

Unfortunately, there is even more bad news on the horizon for the global smartphone industry. As the coronavirus spreads and forces the world into a standstill, and despite tentative signs that China is recovering from the outbreak, global smartphone shipments are expected to remain weak this March, possibly for an even worse fall compared with February.

“The smartphone industry will have to work harder than ever to lift sales in the coming weeks, such as online flash sales or generous discounts on bundling with hot products like smartwatches,” said Strategy Analytics senior analyst Yiwen Wu.

In February, Samsung was the top manufacturer in global smartphone shipments and sales, as the foldable Galaxy Z Flip was released and the Galaxy S20 was announced. Following Samsung were Apple, Xiaomi, Huawei, OPPO, and Vivo.

Samsung recently launched the Galaxy Sanitizing Service in its retail stores and service centers, offering to disinfect smartphones for free using UV-C light. The company was earlier forced to shut down a factory in South Korea after one of its workers was confirmed to be infected with the coronavirus.

Apple, meanwhile, has warned investors that it will likely miss its second-quarter revenue forecast due to the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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