In its latest annual survey of smartphone users (this one featured 8,000 respondents), UBS found that the percentage of U.S. smartphone users saying they plan to buy a smartphone during the next 12 months fell to 40%, the lowest level seen in the last five years. 12-month purchase intent also fell to 40% in the U.K., and while purchase intent grew slightly in Germany and Japan, it was still at just 38% and 22%, respectively.
Likewise, the average age of the smartphones owned by survey respondents was at or near the highest levels recorded in the four aforementioned markets since 2015. In the U.S., the average age was 1.6 years.
China was a notable outlier: 12-month purchase intent came in at 67% (down just slightly from 2018), and its average smartphone age was just 1 year. However, both sales estimates and commentary from smartphone OEMs and mobile chip suppliers suggest Chinese smartphone demand has also come under pressure.
All things considered, UBS' data provides additional evidence that smartphone upgrade cycles continue lengthening in developed markets. In time, 5G and foldable phone launches could change the story, but it doesn't look as if large-scale adoption of either technology will happen before 2020 (and in the case of foldable phones, it could take longer still, given present-day cost, volume and reliability challenges).
On the flip side, research firm IDC just estimated that global shipments of "wearables" -- defined as "wrist-worn devices" such as smartwatches and fitness trackers plus wireless headphones -- grew 55% in Q1 to 49.6 million. Apple (AAPL) , which previously reported (without sharing unit or revenue figures) its wearables revenue rose almost 50% in the March quarter, was estimated by IDC to have shipped 12.8 million wearables (4.6 million Apple Watches and 8.2 million AirPods and wireless Beats headphones), up from 8.6 million a year earlier.
In a way, the UBS and IDC reports are a microcosm of where Apple's business stands in the near-term: iPhone sales are slumping, while the company's various non-iPhone businesses are collectively faring much better. During its March quarter, Apple's iPhone revenue fell 17% annually to $31.05 billion, in large part due to Chinese sales pressures, while its non-iPhone revenue rose 14% to $26.96 billion thanks to wearables, services and iPad strength.
It's safe to assume that none of this is lost on Apple as it pushes ahead with efforts to grow its services revenue with the help of new offerings, and works to boost its iPad and wearables sales with the help of expanded product lineups and relatively aggressive pricing for cheaper models.