Gartner has released research suggesting that worldwide shipments of devices — including PCs, tablets and mobile phones — are expected to total 2.32 billion units in 2018, an increase of 2.1% from the 2.28 billion units shipped in 2017.
The analyst says growth is expected to be driven by two markets, the mobile phone market - led by the high-end smartphone segment - and the premium ultramobile market, where thin and light Apple and Microsoft Windows 10 devices are stimulating higher demand.
Gartner research director Ranjit Atwal says, "Consumers have many technologies to choose from, which poses two main challenges for vendors.
“The first is to compete for wallet share, given how many devices consumers own. The second is to deliver value and maintain relevance — to offer the right device to the right audience. We will see more buyers focusing on value, rather than just price, and therefore considering higher-priced devices."
Following on from Gartner’s 2017 PC market figures, the analyst forecasts that shipments of traditional PCs will decline by 5.4% in 2018, with notebooks showing the steepest decline (6.8%).
The premium ultramobile market will be the only PC segment that is expected to achieve growth in 2018, without which the overall PC market would decline.
Atwal adds, "DRAM costs have doubled since June 2016, and PC providers have increased PC prices since the first half of 2017. This trend is likely to continue into 2018 until DRAM cost trends reverse."
Worldwide Device Shipments by Device Type, 2016-2019 (Millions of Units)
Gartner forecasts that mobile phone shipments will increase by 2.6% in 2018, with the total amounting to 1.9 billion units.
Specifically, smartphone sales hold up the figures as they are expected to grow by 6.2%, representing 87% of mobile phone sales.
In terms of vendors, Gartner research director Roberta Cozza says Apple will be one of the companies that experience healthy overall growth.
"We expect Apple smartphone sales to grow by more than the market average in 2018, with the launch of new models fueling stronger replacement cycles," she says.
The analyst says that 2018 will see increased focus from smartphone vendors on delivering more compelling personalised experiences, via on-device (AI), virtual assistants and more natural user interfaces, but also through biometrics and further enhancements to display and camera features.
It also expects 5G phones to reach the market in 2019, when rollouts of 5G networks will start in select countries, such as the U.S. and South Korea.
"We predict that, by 2021, 9% of smartphones sold will support 5G. Overall, 5G will be a significant driver of video and streaming services, as it will bring faster uplinks and support new AI applications," Cozza concludes.