Thailand: Smartphone sales set to struggle in 2022

Thailand’s smartphone market is expected to experience flat growth or even decline this year due to the economic slump and a weaker baht, but flagship 5G smartphones, loans and trade-in programmes could help prop up the segment, according to IT product distributors.

“A sluggish economy, rising inflation and a weaker baht are taking a toll on demand for smartphones, particularly in the second quarter, which saw a contraction of 15% year-on-year,” Narathip Wirunechatapant, chief executive of Jaymart Mobile, the IT retail arm of Jay Mart Plc, told the Bangkok Post.

He said the company’s IT retail business managed to grow 14% year-on-year in the second quarter due to its synergies with other companies in Jay Mart’s group, including Singer, which can support instalment payments, as well as other online partners.

The firm is also pursuing a trade-in scheme that allows customers to use their existing mobile phones to get a discount on the purchase of new handsets, he said.

The trade-in scheme targets people who have owned smartphones for more than two years.

According to Mr Narathip, the segment is expected to see 17 million handsets sold in 2022, equal to last year, in the best-case scenario.

Thanks to the launch of new flagship smartphones in this quarter, including the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip4, Galaxy Z, other models from Vivo and Apple’s iPhones, demand is expected to pick up in the final quarter.

5G-enabled smartphones are expected to attain a 40% market share in 2022, up from 30% last year.

Handsets costing under 5,000 baht and those priced around 15,000 baht are the most popular choices.

Economic woes have also resulted in longer waiting periods for people who want to change their handsets, from a previous average of 18 months to two years or more at present, Mr Narathip added.

“With rising inflation and a weaker baht, the country’s smartphone market will be very tough this year,” said Chunyan See, Thailand country manager at MediaTek, a Taiwan-based smartphone chip maker.

“The size of the market is expected to drop from 20-21 million units to 19.5 million this year.”

In the second half of this year, 5G-compatible smartphones are expected to make up 40% of the total market, up from 32% in the first half.

Meanwhile, South Korean tech giant Samsung Electronics recently launched a new line-up of foldable smartphones, including the Galaxy Z Flip4 and Galaxy Z Fold4.

Galaxy Z Flip4’s key features include an upgraded camera experience, a larger battery, and expanded customisation while maintaining its ultra-compact design, while the Galaxy Z Fold4 offers shape-shifting design, immersive displays and PC-like multitasking features, in addition to advanced camera technology and powerful mobile processors.

TM Roh, president and head of Mobile eXperience Business at Samsung Electronics, said the firm spent eight years in engineering to develop foldable handsets.

“We have successfully transformed this category and it continues to grow. Last year about 10 million foldable handsets were sold,” Mr Roh said.