Pakistan's Mobile Handset Market Sees Strong Growth as Consumers Embrace the Smartphone Revolution | About IDC | IDC CEMA

Dubai – Pakistan's mobile phone market continued on its strong growth trajectory during the first quarter of 2017, according to the latest figures announced today by International Data Corporation (IDC). The global technology research and consulting firm's newly released Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker shows that shipments increased 9.7% year on year (YoY) in Q1 2017, while the market's value grew 22% over the same period. Shipments of mobile phones in Pakistan increased 17% over the 2014–2016 period.

Shipments of smartphones grew by a massive 27.6% YoY in Q1 2017, while the feature phone segment contracted -4% over the same timeframe. As the rollout of 3G and 4G networks continues across the country, smartphone adoption is increasing at the expense of feature phones. Indeed, smartphones accounted for 50.3% of overall mobile shipments in Q1 2017, up from 43% in the corresponding quarter of 2016. 

"Pakistan is following in the footsteps of other more developed markets as it undergoes the inevitable transition from feature phones to smartphones," says Isaac T. Ngatia, a senior research analyst at IDC. "This shift is being driven by various factors, including the roll out of supporting infrastructure, improved offers from both local and international vendors, and a general increase in smartphone demand. As the enabling infrastructure and resources are put in place, we expect to see more people using not only voice and data services, but also data-enabled services."

"However, this transition to smartphones still faces some key challenges, which is why we expect the feature phone category to remain resilient in the short term," continues Ngatia. "An obvious inhibitor of smartphone adoption at this stage is the fact that 3G/4G services are not yet available across the whole country, while the regular power outages that afflict some areas also make it difficult to reliably recharge notoriously power-hungry smartphones as and when needed. The development of innovative, localized content also remains at a nascent stage, which is limiting the need for data. But as this ecosystem grows over the coming years, it will inevitably fuel greater demand for smartphones."

In the smartphone space, it is important to note that the market is leapfrogging to 4G-enabled handsets, with shipments of these devices up 189% YoY in Q1 2017. This implies that despite the limited coverage, vendors are preferring to ship in 4G-enabled models as they wait for operators to rollout their networks, while hoping consumers will experience the convenience of 4G whenever and wherever it becomes available.  

This growth has led to an influx of mobile devices from both local and international vendors, although Qmobile continues to dominate the overall market. Its share of the smartphone segment in Q1 2017 totaled 54.9%, with Samsung (19.1%), Huawei (6.1%), and Oppo (5.2%) rounding out the top four. Meanwhile, the feature phone space is dominated by three brands, with Qmobile, Nokia, and Maxx accounting for a combined share of 92.6%.

"The Pakistan smartphone market is growing increasingly competitive," says Nabila Popal, a senior research manager at IDC. "The recent entry of brands such as Xiaomi, as well as the presence of other Chinese brands like Infinix and OPPO, is providing consumers with a wider choice of smartphones at more affordable prices. The proportion of low-cost smartphones in Pakistan continues to grow, with almost 50%of all smartphones shipped to the market priced below $100 in Q1 2017, up from 31.7% a year earlier." 

The government recently imposed regulatory taxes on all phones, so international vendors importing handsets into the country need to pay special attention to the impact this will have on their prices in what is a highly price-sensitive market. Despite this challenge, IDC expects smartphone shipments for 2017 as a whole to increase 21% over 2016.  Expansion of the country's 4G network coupled with the shipment of 4G-compliant devices will be the key factors fueling this growth. 

For more information about IDC's Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, please contact Sheila Manek on +971 4 446 3154 or at