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Huawei helps global smartphone shipments tick up

Partly thanks to record sales by Huawei, worldwide smartphone shipments increased 0.8% year over year in the third quarter of 2019, reversing seven quarters of decline

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Worldwide smartphone shipments increased 0.8% year over year in the third quarter of 2019, reversing seven quarters of decline, according to preliminary data from the International Data Corporation (IDCWorldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker. In total, companies shipped a total 358.3 million smartphones during the quarter, which was up 8.1% from the previous quarter and enough to return the industry to positive growth.

Digging into the growth areas, India led emerging markets in total, which together were responsible for propelling worldwide growth, mainly from the rise of Chinese brands. In China, greater consolidation toward the top 5 brands was the main trend in the quarter. The top Chinese brands all increased their local shipments in preparation for 11.11 or “Singles’ Day,” the Chinese equivalent of Black Friday for shopping in the U.S.

“Despite facing challenges across many international markets, Huawei doubled down on China in the third quarter,” says Melissa Chau, associate research director with IDC’s Worldwide Mobile Device Trackers. “Samsung benefited the most internationally from Huawei’s woes, ramping up the more affordable A series, while in China the other domestic competitors felt the heat from Huawei.”

“The market returning to positive growth shows the resilience of this industry as well as the ongoing demand for mobile phones, all in the face of many global macroeconomic challenges,” said Ryan Reith, program vice president with IDC’s Worldwide Mobile Device Trackers. “The number of factors in play for competition are incredible. It is clear Huawei continues to make big gains in China, which remains the world’s largest market. Apple beat many expectations and is driving strong volumes in mature markets that face equally challenging headwinds. And most importantly, the top 5 OEMs accounted for more than 70% of the world’s smartphone shipments for the first time ever this quarter. The industry and vendor landscape is still changing but the trend of consolidation is ramping along with it.”

Smartphone Company Highlights

Samsung gained share in 3Q19 with annual growth of 8.3% on the back of the Galaxy Note 10 launch in August and increased A series volumes, with a total of 78.2 million smartphones shipped. The lower-end to midrange A series in particular helped to fill in the gaps left behind by Huawei.

Huawei shipped higher volumes than expected as it shifted focus to its domestic market, particularly in lower-tier cities, and increased inventories given the unknown future with Google Mobile services. While a sentiment of nationalism has helped to bolster Huawei in China, solid relationships with the local channel players has been key, offering favorable distributor terms and a well-rounded product portfolio. Nevertheless, there will be challenges ahead with 4G inventory to clear while consumers wait for affordable 5G products to hit the market.

Apple shipped 46.6 million iPhones in 3Q19, which was a slight decline year over year but still better than most expectations. Apple continues to sell some refurbished iPhones via its own channels, which sustain and possibly grow the installed base, but also impact iPhone revenues. Newer iPhones, specifically the iPhone 11s and XR, did very well this quarter, capturing strong share in important markets like the U.S. and Western Europe.

Xiaomi for the first time saw less than a third of its shipments delivered domestically in China, which was second to India in volume. Domestically, despite its launch of the CC series to appeal to young female consumers, shipments declined under pressure from Huawei. The runway was clearer for Xiaomi in India, however, where it strengthened its offline presence by expanding its sales network via the Mi Store and Mi Preferred Partners.

OPPO also focused its attention outside of China as it approached the tipping point of nearly half of its shipments outside of China with domestic shipments focused on the Reno series and the A9. India experienced the strongest momentum internationally where the Reno series helped complete its product portfolio with higher-end offerings while the online-exclusive K series strengthened its online presence.

Top 5 Smartphone Companies, Worldwide Shipments, Market Share, and Year-Over-Year Growth, Q3 2019 (shipments in millions)

Company3Q19 Shipments3Q19 Market Share3Q18 Shipments3Q18 Market ShareYear-Over-Year Change
1. Samsung78.221.8%72.220.3%8.3%
2. Huawei66.618.6%52.014.6%28.2%
3. Apple46.613.0%46.913.2%-0.6%
4. Xiaomi32.79.1%33.89.5%-3.3%
5. OPPO31.28.7%30.08.4%4.1%
Others103.028.7%120.734.0%-14.7%
Total358.3100.0%355.6100.0%0.8%

Source: IDC Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, Q3 2019, November 7, 2019

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SA’s Internet goes down again

South Africa is about to experience a small repeat of the lower speeds and loss of Internet connectivity suffered in January, thanks to a new undersea cable break, writes BRYAN TURNER

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Internet service provider Afrihost has notified customers that there are major outages across all South African Internet Service Providers (ISPs), as a result of a break in the WACS undersea cable between Portugal and England 

The cause of the cable break along the cable is unclear. it marks the second major breakage event along the West African Internet sea cables this year, and comes at the worst possible time: as South Africans grow heavily dependent on their Internet connections during the COVID-19 lockdown. 

As a result of the break, the use of international websites and services, which include VPNs (virtual private networks), may result in latency – decreased speeds and response times.  

WACS runs from Yzerfontein in the Western Cape, up the West Coast of Africa, and terminates in the United Kingdom. It makes a stop in Portugal before it reaches the UK, and the breakage is reportedly somewhere between these two countries. 

The cable is owned in portions by several companies, and the portion where the breakage has occurred belongs to Tata Communications. 

The alternate routes are:  

  • SAT3, which runs from Melkbosstrand also in the Western Cape, up the West Coast and terminates in Portugal and Spain. This cable runs nearly parallel to WACS and has less Internet capacity than WACS. 
  • ACE (Africa Coast to Europe), which also runs up the West Coast.  
  • The SEACOM cable runs from South Africa, up the East Coast of Africa, terminating in both London and Dubai.  
  • The EASSy cable also runs from South Africa, up the East Coast, terminating in Sudan, from where it connects to other cables. 

The routes most ISPs in South Africa use are WACS and SAT3, due to cost reasons. 

The impact will not be as severe as in January, though. All international traffic is being redirected via alternative cable routes. This may be a viable method for connecting users to the Internet but might not be suitable for latency-sensitive applications like International video conferencing. 

Read more about the first Internet connectivity breakage which happened on the same cable, earlier this year. 

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SA cellphones to be tracked to fight coronavirus

Several countries are tracking cellphones to understand who may have been exposed to coronavirus-infected people. South Africa is about to follow suit, writes BRYAN TURNER

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From Israel to South Korea, governments and cell networks have been implementing measures to trace the cellphones of coronavirus-infected citizens, and who they’ve been around. The mechanisms countries have used have varied.  

In Iran, citizens were encouraged to download an app that claimed to diagnose COVID-19 with a series of yes or no questions. The app also tracked real-time location with a very high level of accuracy, provided by the GPS sensor. 

In Germany, all cellphones on Deutsche Telekom are being tracked through cell tower connections, providing a much coarser location, but a less invasive method of tracking. The data is being handled by the Robert Koch Institute, the German version of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

In Taiwan, those quarantined at home are tracked via an “electronic fence”, which determines if users leave their homes.  

In South Africa, preparations have started to track cellphones based on cell tower connections. The choice of this method is understandable, as many South Africans may either feel an app is too intrusive to have installed, or may not have the data to install the app. This method also allows more cellphones, including basic feature phones, to be tracked. 

This means that users can be tracked on a fairly anonymised basis, because these locations can be accurate to about 2 square kilometers. Clearly, this method of tracking is not meant to monitor individual movements, but rather gain a sense of who’s been around which general area.  

This data could be used to find lockdown violators, if one considers that a phone connecting in Hillbrow for the first 11 days of lockdown, and then connecting in Morningside for the next 5, likely indicates a person has moved for an extended period of time. 

The distance between Hillbrow and Morningside is 17km. One would pass through several zones covered by different towers.

Communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams said that South African network providers have agreed to provide government with location data to help fight COVID-19. 

Details on how the data will be used, and what it will used to determine, are still unclear. 

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