Technology analysts at Gartner have issued their predictions for computer device usage in the next year, saying that 5G will boost mobile usage but that PCs are set to hit a slump.

The firm – the most well-known and biggest technology consultancy and analysis company going – says that there will be a total of 2.16 billion units shipped this year. The devices that Gartner is counting for the study includes PCs, tablets and mobile phones, and the analysts say that the total number of units marks a very slight increase from last year when 2.15 billion units were shipped.“ From 2020, Gartner expects an increase in 5G phone adoption as prices decrease, 5G service coverage increases and users have better experiences with 5G phones. The market will experience a further increase in 2023 when 5G handsets will account for over 50% of the mobile phones shipped,” 

There are a few numbers to unpick in the study, but it’s worth noting that the results relate to different types of devices, each of which are on their own trajectories, all around the world. That means that the generalised figures may hide an important story about exactly what technology professionals and the businesses that employ them should expect and prepare for.

The 5G party

Gartner’s analysis suggests that after a sluggish year for the mobile phone in 2019, things will pick up again in 2020. 

Shipments last year saw a 2% decline compared to 2018 – in line with comments made by tech observers that the upgrade cycle in mature mobile markets has slowed, with more people now reconsidering the value proposition of an expensive contract for a new phone compared to the relatively cheap option of a refurbished model or a SIM-only deal.

Gartner’s predictions suggest that increased use of 5G technology is the factor that may pick the mobile market out of its slump. As an increasing number of handsets offer 5G, the proposition of a contract and a new phone again becomes attractive compared to an older model and cheaper monthly bills. Arguably the reason for the slump was a lack of true innovation and differentiation between each generation of mobile phone – why pay top dollar for a model only slightly better than the one in your pocket?

Ranjit Atwal, research senior director at Gartner, says this: “From 2020, Gartner expects an increase in 5G phone adoption as prices decrease, 5G service coverage increases and users have better experiences with 5G phones. The market will experience a further increase in 2023 when 5G handsets will account for over 50% of the mobile phones shipped.” 

The end of the PC era

Conversely to the mobile market, 2019 was a relatively good year for professional PC device usage – but that was a blip in an otherwise downward slope. 2020 will get back to the usual trend of reduced shipment of units for PCs, Gartner says – and that’s in large part thanks to the upgrade cycle of Windows. 

Because Microsoft withdrew support for Windows 7 in early January this year, many companies had to make the upgrade to Windows 10 – with Gartner estimating that one billion PCs will have migrated to Windows 10 through 2020 — around 80% of all PCs in use.

And now that Microsoft has changed the way that it does software, the regular hardware upgrade trends will change too. 

“The PC market’s future is unpredictable because there will not be a Windows 11. Instead, Windows 10 will be upgraded systematically through regular updates,” Gartner analyst Atwal said. “As a result, peaks in PC hardware upgrade cycles driven by an entire Windows OS upgrade will end.”

What it means

For tech professionals, it’s very useful to know what the device usage trends are. Gartner suggests that there may be some growth in PC use in China – and that there will definitely be growth in mobile use in emerging economies. It’s important for those in the digital industry to know their market and who they are aiming for. With different processes and optimisation for different devices, knowing how a product will be used, on what device, and where, maybe the difference between success and failure. 

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