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Phones shipments face their worst decline ever, Gartner says

Global shipments of mobile devices will decrease by 68 million this year, more than PCs and tablets.

LG V50 ThinQ phone
Gartner estimates the mobile phone market will see a larger decrease in global shipments than will PCs and tablets. 
Angela Lang/CNET

Consumers aren't flocking to buy mobile phones like they used to. This year it's estimated that global shipments of mobile phones will decline by 68 million units, or 3.8%, compared to the preceding year, according to a report released Wednesday by Gartner. The research firm projects this as the worst decrease to date for smartphones. 

The report attributes the lower demand to consumers holding onto their phones longer and to their desire for dramatic changes in experience. Collectively, global device shipments -- including PCs, tablets and mobile phones -- will decrease by an estimated 74 million in 2019.

Meanwhile, other firms such as eMarketer have predicted smartphone use will slow down by 2020

"If mobile phones don't provide significant new utility, efficiency or experiences, users won't upgrade them, and will consequently increase these devices' life spans," Ranjit Atwal, research director at Gartner, said in a statement. 

Now playing: Watch this: 5G phones you can buy right now

To combat this decline, Gartner says, mobile phone manufacturers will try to lure consumers with 5G-enabled in the coming year. In 2023, the firm expects 5G phones could account for 51% of sales, up from a projected 6% in 2020. 

At the moment, there are only a handful of 5G phones available on the market. These include Samsung's Galaxy S10 5G as well as the LG V50 ThinQ. And 5G networks are only available in limited areas in select US cities for the time being.