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Future of Devices: 5G and the China effect

The smartphone is set to remain the dominant consumer device into the new decade, but the arrival of 5G will not guarantee a surge in device upgrades, according to this latest research from GSMA Intelligence. The report provides insight on consumer technology adoption trends, including the outlook for smartphones, smart speakers, wearables and other emerging categories.

The device ecosystem will be critical in shaping the trajectory of 5G adoption, but consumers in different markets will not look at 5G upgrades in the same way. Operators and device manufacturers will need to understand consumer demand on a granular level to make the most of the 5G opportunity. Only 30-40% of survey respondents in major markets such as the US, Europe and Australia said the arrival of 5G is likely to result in a smartphone upgrade in the short term. By contrast, nearly 50% of Chinese consumers plan to buy 5G phones as soon as they are available.

Fragmentation and a lack of compatibility between manufacturers continue to dampen adoption of smart home devices. However, this segment is being buoyed by the popularity of smart speakers, which are increasingly acting as a single control point within the home. Speakers have become a key battleground in the wider development of AI. Amazon and Google are furthest ahead but both face the challenge of getting customers to go beyond basic functionality to higher-value tasks.

Adoption rates of fitness trackers and smartwatches picked up in 2019, with millennials showing the strongest ownership rates. However, connected health devices continue to be sorely underrepresented among older populations. This is a missed opportunity for tech companies and governments given that such devices can facilitate remote monitoring for a range of conditions.

The report is based on GSMA Intelligence’s Consumer Insights Survey 2019, which surveyed 38,000 respondents across 36 key markets.

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