Smartphone shipments saw their largest drop ever in February

Jon Fingas
Associate Editor
AP Photo/Kin Cheung

You likely knew that smartphone demand would fall during the COVID-19 pandemic when Apple and others were warning of shortages, but it's now clearer just how bad the damage was. Strategy Analytics has determined that smartphone shipments fell 38 percent year-over-year in February, from 99.2 million to 61.8 million -- the steepest drop in the recorded history of the market. Demand "collapsed" in Asia that month as people were unwilling or unable to visit stores, while some companies had to temporarily stop manufacturing devices after reports of infected workers.

Strategy Analytics' Linda Sui told CNBC that the slump was across every price category, and not just premium models.

As you might guess, March isn't looking much better. The coronavirus outbreak has reached Europe and North America in earnest, leading to more wary customers and store closures. China appears to be recovering, but the smartphone industry could be in for significant pain until it's clear the pandemic is on the decline elsewhere. And from all indications, that might not happen for a while.