February 2021

Welcome to this month's IT Market Alert from the IT Edition of KnowledgeBus. This alert is designed to deliver some key market knowledge viewed during January 2021 that should help you get more from your IT procurement going forwards.


Executive Summary

  • PC sales are strong, especially notebooks
  • Stock availability is a problem
  • Tablet and smartphone shipments both returned to growth


The largest number of price increases happened on January 22nd, with 37,983.

Jump to Monthly Stats

The year started strong for the UK but petered out in the first half of January, according to CONTEXT's weekly revenue trend index, which maps performance against the average four-week revenue across all European countries during 2019. The UK and Ireland began above that index but fell slightly below it by the second week in January and stayed there for week three.

Notebooks, mobile computing, monitors, computing accessories, and AV systems all did well throughout 2020, with notebooks and mobile devices faring especially well in Q4. However, CONTEXT warned of stock shortages in the distribution channel, with fewer than two weeks of stock among Western European distributors overall in January. They had fewer than a week of stock for monitors, and just half a week of stock for printers.


Exchange Rate

The euro fared poorly against the dollar in January, starting the month at 1.2212 and then looking positive with a climb to 1.2313 on Jan 6. That faded quickly as the euro began a fast decline to reach 1.2072 on January 17. From there, it saw a slight bump to 1.2171 on Jan 24 before falling back to 1.2110 on Jan 28, finishing the month at 1.2135.


British Pound (GBP) per 1 Euro (EUR)

Things were much the same against the pound. The Euro began the month at 0.8935 before rising to a high of 0.9046 on Jan 7. It then saw a sharp drop, with a brief halt at 0.9010 on Jan 11 before continuing to 0.8881 on Jan 16. It then ranged between the 0.8850s and 0.890s until finally losing steam and dropping to 0.8841 on Jan 27. It finished out the month at 0.8849.

What caused the Euro to drop? The US announced a $1.9 stimulus plan, which bolstered confidence in its economy and also signalled a bright future for government bonds. The US Treasury yield curve hit a four-year high mid-month.

US Dollar (USD) per 1 Euro (EUR)

Euro (EUR) per 1 British Pound (GBP)

US Dollar (USD) per 1 British Pound (GBP)

Price Changes and News Through January 2020


Phones and Tablets

Gartner predicted worldwide smartphone sales would grow 11% in 2021 to reach 1.5bn. 5G sales would account for 35% of total smartphone sales in 2021.

IDC has already noticed a return to positive growth for smartphone shipments in the fourth quarter with a 4.3% YoY shipment growth to 385.8m devices compared to Q4 2019.

Apple was a leader in this recovery. IDC noted 90.1m Apple smartphones shipping during the quarter, putting the company squarely in the number one slot, giving it 22.4% YoY shipment growth and a 23.4% market share. That knocked Samsung into second place with a 19.1% market share. Xiaomi, OPPO, and Huawei came next in the top five, with 11.2%, 8.8%, and 8.4% market share respectively.

The market for refurbished smartphones fell across the board in 2020, said Counterpoint Research, noting that Western European sales in this category fell more than the 9% average, dipping 14%. The pandemic delayed a significant number of purchases during the year, the company said.

Worldwide tablet shipments returned to growth in 2020, said IDC, with 19.5% year-over-year growth and shipments totalling 52.2 million units. Shipment levels have not been that high since the fourth quarter of 2017 when the total was 49.9 million.

Apple maintained the top slot with 36.5% market share and 19.5% YoY growth during the quarter. Samsung, Lenovo, Amazon, and Huawei made up the rest of the top five with market shares of 19.4%, 10.7%, 6.8%, and 6.3% respectively. Lenovo was the big mover with 120% growth in its market share, while Huawei lost a quarter of its market share.

The UK lagged the other four top Western European countries by revenue (France, Germany, Spain, and Italy) in the average purchase price (APP) for tablet devices, continuing a trend after a major drop in UK APP in week 40 of 2020.

Traditional PCs

The PC market's sales mirrored the tablet category with a healthy 26.1% YoY growth in shipments during Q4 up to 91.6m units, said IDC. That growth, driven by massive demand in consumer and education, punctuated a 13.1% YoY growth during 2020 overall.

Western European PC shipments grew by a respectable 20% - the best growth rate in the EMEA region overall, according to IDC. Strong performance in the notebook market saw a 39% increase in shipments, which offset a 25% fall-off in desktop shipments, the company said.

The average purchase price of notebooks continues to lag in the UK behind France, Spain, Germany, and Italy, CONTEXT warned. It has been this way since week 40 of 2020. The UK also lags the other four top Western European countries in desktop APP.

Premium Ultramobiles & Wearables

Notebook shipments did well across the board according to WitsView, which said that they hit 200m globally for the first time. Chromebooks were the bright star in this category, accounting for 14.8% of global notebook shipments in 2020. The company expects this to reach 18.5% in 2021.

Microsoft and Apple helped to drive shipments of detachables 27.9% during Q4 2020 with new product launches, IDC said.

Counterpoint said that true wireless stereo (TWS) hearables drove growth in wireless stereo during 2020, with annual shipments expected to grow 83% to 238m units during the year. The tendency to remove jacks from wearable devices drove that trend, it said. Earwear accounted for 52% of shipments in Q3, the company added, with wristwear making up 41%. Apple led the pack in TWS, with a 29% market share. Xiaomi followed with a 13% share, and everyone else lagged in single figures. Samsung made joint third place with JBL, both taking a 5% market share.

Global spending on wearable devices will total $81.5 billion in 2021, said Gartner, representing an 18.1% increase from 2020's $69bn. Increasing interest in health monitoring during the pandemic was a key factor, it added.

Processors, MEMs, Semiconductors

Global semiconductor sales increased 6.5% to $439bn in 2020, up from $412.3bn in 2019, the Semiconductor Industry Association found. Global sales for December rose 8.3% YoY to $439bn, while Q4 sales of $117.5bn were 8.3% up YoY. Europe didn't see much of that action. Annual sales fell 6% in the region throughout 2020.

The foundry industry’s robust revenue growth will continue in 2021 following a 23% growth to $82bn in 2020, said Counterpoint Research, noting that technology migrations to five- and seven-nanometer fabs in response to 5G, games consoles, and AI GPUs would fuel the trend. Tiawan's TSMC will continue outperforming the industry, it said, posting a 13-16% sales growth in 2021.

This growth is contributing to a supply crunch that has already prompted a shortage of semiconductors since the beginning of this year. Under-investment in wafer capacity is to blame, and it will take fabs until the second half of this year to rectify the problem sufficiently, Counterpoint said.


DigiTimes' memory module sources expect DRAM prices to rise through the second quarter of this year following a 5-10% rise in Q1. Meanwhile, other industry sources predict that DDR5 RAM will be ready for consumer products as early as the second half of 2021, the outlet said.


Trendfocus's year-end HDD shipment figures showed a market for spinning metal storage that was down but not out. Unit sales of all HDDs dropped 13.9% to 259.8m in 2020, with notebook HDD shipments outpacing desktop at 84.4m to 54.46m. Seagate led Western Digital in first place with 111m HDD shipments compared to 96m. Toshiba came a distant third with 52.8m units.

The decline is ongoing, and HDDs will continue giving way to SSDs. Nevertheless, that hasn't quashed Seagate's plans to release HDDs with more storage capacity. It recently launched a 20Tb drive and has plans for 30T and 40Tb units, said DigiTimes.


The display market looks set for a perfect storm that will affect supply and demand. An LCD panel price rally will continue during the first half of 2021, according to DigiTimes, which expects prices to rise over 10% in Q1. This is due to a shortage of supply components that the company warned is worsening thanks to power outages at some plants. Expect limited IC supply to bottleneck shipments of monitor panels in 2021, warned Trendforce.


Pent-up demand will drive 3D printer shipment growth in 2021, according to CONTEXT. Quarterly totals in 2020 lagged those in 2019 in spite of rebounds in the professional, design, and industrial printer segments between Q2 and Q3, while demand from consumers and work-at-home professionals was more muted in Q3 than in Q2. The analyst firm expects a surge of interest in the coming year as companies launch delayed products in this market and the depression of the economy through COVID lockdown measures in Q4 eases off.

The overall printing segment was below CONTEXT's 2019 revenue index for the first three weeks in January, but an uptick saw revenues lifting for the third week of the month for all countries except France. In the UK, revenues in the consumer market picked up more sharply than business printer revenues in January, managing to creep back above the CONTEXT 2019 average four-week index.


The UK and Ireland continues to lag other countries in toner revenues, having had the lowest sales since week 45 last year when compared with Spain, Italy, Germany, and France.


Monthly Stats

January was a volatile month across the board for prices and stock. Price rises began spiking violently as soon as the Christmas holidays were over, reaching 35,191 on Jan 11 before falling to zero along with all other indicators on Jan 12. From there, they rose to 29,535 on Jan 13 and then bottomed out, rising twice more to 35,934 on Jan 19 and then to 25,522 on Jan 26.

Price drops were equally volatile with the same spikes at the beginning of the month until Jan 8, when they failed to rally again, instead dropping to 13,995 before zeroing out on Jan 12. After that, they hit three high spots beginning with a five-day spot in the low-to-mid 30,000s on Jan 13 and then peaking at 37,983 on Jan 22-24. They saw another rise to 31,247 on Jan 28 before falling back to finish the month at 15,564. Increases and drops in stock shadowed each other for the entire month, save for Jan 4-11, when stock drops rose while stock increases stayed low.

New Products January 2021

Prices and Stock Movements January 2021