US operators spent tens of millions of dollars in 5G advertising last year but, according to new research, they don't have much to show for it yet.
Counterpoint Research and NPD Group reported that just 1% of all phones sold in the US last year sported 5G capabilities. Counterpoint reported that LG, Samsung and other 5G phone vendors collectively sold 2 million 5G phones in the US during 2019. (That's an improvement from the 29,000 5G devices sold in the US by the end of the second quarter of 2019.)
Counterpoint said Samsung's Note 10 Plus 5G was the best-selling 5G smartphone in the country during 2019, and that the vendor commanded a leading 74% of the 5G phone market in the US during the year.
"5G smartphone sales were below expectations in the US in 2019 due to multiple reasons," explained Counterpoint analyst Jeff Fieldhack in a release. He said the fact that neither AT&T nor T-Mobile offered widespread 5G coverage until the end of the year hindered sales, and that Verizon didn't offer many phones that could connect to its millimeter wave (mmWave) 5G network.
However, NPD offered some positive figures, noting that Americans are at least increasingly aware of 5G. The firm said fully 89% of survey respondents knew of the technology in the second half of 2019, up from 73% in the first half of the year.
A rise in 2020
Of course, as the industry hurdles into 2020 most analysts expect a significant uptick in 5G phone sales. For example, the analysts at Counterpoint predicted 5G could be supported by as many as 25% of all US phones this year. "Much of this growth will be fueled by Apple iPhones having 5G capabilities from Apple's expected September 2020 launch, and the proliferation of sub-$500 5G smartphones," Counterpoint's Fieldhack added.
Indeed, in its February US smartphone report, Wave7 Research reported ongoing sales of 5G phones as customers look to purchase "the latest and greatest."
However, Wave7 found mixed attitudes among retail store employees toward the newly released Galaxy S20 5G phones from Samsung – indeed, a number of analysts have argued that the gadgets may simply be too expensive for most shoppers.
And that pandemic
Of course, the spreading coronavirus – and its effects on sales and shopping – clearly could cut into sales of all phones in the US and globally, 5G or not.
Neil Mawston, executive director at Strategy Analytics, warned that although the smartphone industry is growing quickly, "the ongoing coronavirus scare and subsequent economic slowdown will put a cap on overall 5G demand this year." Mawston made that statement a month ago.