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Apple iPhone sales could fall without a 5G phone, IDC predicts

2019 will be "challenging" for Apple if it doesn't introduce an iPhone that can use the next-gen networks.

iPhone sales could drop without a 5G model.
Angela Lang/CNET

Apple's phone shipments are forecast to continue dropping this year, with market research firm International Data Corporation predicting that 2019 will be "challenging" for the tech giant if it doesn't introduce a 5G iPhone. But once an iPhone can use the next-gen networks being launched worldwide, shipments will pick up again thanks to Apple's advantage of better understanding the 5G market, an IDC report released Monday said.

While we don't yet know for sure what Apple will announce when it unveils its new iPhone lineup Tuesday, it's almost certain that there will be no 5G phone for 2019. Its presentation will likely include only modest upgrades to existing handsets. Many of Apple's competitors have all already announced and even released 5G phones, including Samsung Galaxy S10 5G.

Likely as a result, IDC said iPhone shipments are expected to fall by 15% to 177.9 million this year. By comparison, IDC predicts Android's smartphone market share to grow from 85% to 87% this year thanks to "a push from the new devices."

"The anticipation of 5G, beginning with smartphones, has been building for quite some time, but the challenges within the smartphone market over the past three years have magnified that anticipation," said Ryan Reith, vice president of IDC's worldwide mobile device trackers program. "We don't think 5G will be the savior in smartphones, but we do see it as a critical evolution in mobile technology."

Now playing: Watch this: What the heck is a 5G network?

With "hearables" or ear-worn devices, IDC said Monday that Apple remained top seed with 50% market share for the second quarter of 2019. It shipped almost 16 million devices, mainly AirPods and Beats headphones, during that quarter -- a rise of more than 200%.

Samsung was a distant second place, shipping 3.3 million hearables; Xiaomi third, with 2.1 million; Bose fourth, with 1.8 million; and ReSound fifth, with 1.6 million hearables shipped during the quarter. Xiaomi's growth was the biggest jump out of the five companies, shipping 714.8% more devices than the same quarter last year, mainly thanks to its AirDots.