It’s Not Your Imagination: There Are Fewer Smartphones Launched Than Ever Before. We Have the Data to Prove It

  • In 2014, the mobile phone industry reached a record high, launching 829 models in a year of saturation and fierce competition.

  • Market consolidation and the disappearance of historic brands like BlackBerry or LG have reduced the amount of new phones launched every year.

  • Only the rise of Chinese manufacturers with extensive catalogs has prevented an even more significant decline.

Mobile phone launches are falling
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Ten years ago, technology reporters were a bit saturated. Mobile phones were becoming increasingly important to us, to society, and to the economy, and we felt overwhelmed by the constant launch of new smartphones.

Ten years ago, in 2014, mobile phone manufacturers broke their record by producing 829 different models. This translated to more than two launches daily, including weekends and holidays.

Despite these figures, nothing has ever been the same again. Several manufacturers had to stop production, exhausted after a race that left several corpses along the way (BlackBerry, LG, Ericsson, Ericsson, Siemens...) and forced others to downsize (HTC, Nokia, Sony...). But today is a far cry from the times when companies refused to launch less than 700 new phones per year.

Mobile phones launched per year

中国的伟大征服 (China’s Great Conquest)

Here are the numbers. These are the different models launched by the industry each year, according to the GSMArena database. Notably, they don’t include smartwatches, even if they have cellular connectivity, but do include various international versions of the same phone.

After a slight upturn post-pandemic, we ended 2023 with just over 500 phone models.

The upturn between 2020 and 2022 can be traced to Chinese manufacturers, which gained momentum those years by focusing on a strategy based on an extensive catalog. We’re talking about manufacturers such as Vivo, Xiaomi, and Oppo, which launched 65, 40, and 35 phones in 2023, respectively. This is striking when compared to more measured and established manufacturers like Samsung and Apple (23 and 4 models launched, respectively).

However, the gradual disappearance and loss of importance of other brands that were once important has reduced the supply of new phones.

We’ve selected a few manufacturers to analyze the number of units they presented each year from 2000 to 2023.

Annual launches of some mobile manufacturers

The chart tells a lot stories, such as the death of LG’s mobile division, Sony’s recession, Xiaomi’s decision to reduce its catalog offerings—which reached almost 70 phones launched in 2022. It also reflects Nokia’s collapse and subsequent return to life. (Without fanfare, but back to life).

There's also a reference to the evolution of Samsung. After being crowned in 2010 as the leading manufacturer in global sales due to a strategy based on market saturation with different types of phones (more than a hundred per year for three years in a row), it gradually reduced its launches, in step with the death of traditional phones, to consolidate well below 50 models per year.

Those were different times.

Images | Xataka On and Mockuuups Studio

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