Global refurbished phone market declines 1% in 2019, India sees 9% growth

The global market for refurbished smartphones declined 1 per cent (year-on-year) in 2019, reaching just over 137 million units, according to a new report. The refurbished smartphone market in India, however, grew a healthy 9 per cent last year.

The market grew somewhat in the fourth quarter as Apple upgrades remained strong but a 1 per cent increase during the second half of the year was not able to offset the decline in the first half, said latest research from Counterpoint’s ‘Refurbished Smartphone Tracker’.

“This is the first time in the last four years that the refurbished market has declined for the full year. The trend is mainly linked with the downturn in new smartphone sales in key regions like the US, China and Europe,” said Jeff Fieldhack, Research Director at Counterpoint Research.

Despite a decline in the overall market, there were several growth markets like India, Latin America and Africa.

Varun Mishra, Research Analyst at Counterpoint Research said that the refurb ecosystem in these economies is still at a nascent stage.

“In terms of smartphones, these markets remain underpenetrated. Many users are looking for affordable devices to come online. The transition from feature phones to smartphones and the aspiration of premium devices at an affordable price point continue to fuel growth in these markets,” Mishra said in a statement.

There is also the ongoing transition of the refurb segment from the unorganised sector to organised in countries like India which is opening opportunities.

Apple and Samsung continued to dominate the secondary market in 2019.

“Apple continues to foster its trade-in and insurance programmes. This also makes sense for Apple as it has been focusing on its service segment. The experience of these services is more enriched with the newer hardware, and a strong trade-in program can help users upgrade,” the findings showed.

Galaxy S series is the main driver for Samsung.

The company is getting more aggressive with buy-back programmes and adding more repair partnerships.

Huawei’s strength in new sales and brand building efforts has helped it increase its presence within the used/refurbished market.

“But the US sanctions are likely to hurt sales and the brand outside of China in 2020 unless an agreement is made within a China-US trade deal,” said the report.

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