5G Smartphone Users in China the World’s Busiest Shoppers


Post date

November 26, 2020

Sihan Chen, Head of Greater China and Events, GSMA

It’s been two weeks since Singles Day 2020. By many accounts, it was bigger than ever before, smashing sales records. It’s got so big, it’s going global, with many brands promoting our national shopping event to markets outside China.

At the GSMA, we track digital consumer trends. Our 2020 survey results tell us that it’s no coincidence that China keeps breaking world records for the biggest online retail event: China’s smartphone online shoppers are the busiest in the world. 51% of smartphone owners in China order or buy online using their smartphones at least once a week. In comparison, look at shoppers using their smartphones to buy online in South Korea (42%), the USA (33%) and Europe (32%).

74% 5G smartphone users shop with their devices every week

And smartphone owners who have upgraded to 5G are even busier. That’s the same story for 5G users around the world, and you guessed it – shoppers using their 5G smartphones in China are a long way ahead. A massive 74% buy something online using their phones at least once per week. Elsewhere, the stats are South Korea (50%), USA (46%), Europe (47%). It’s a similar picture for 4G smartphone users in China (49%), South Korea (40%), USA (36%), Europe (34%).

Here in China, we clearly love to shop using our smartphones. But which smartphones brands are the most popular with online shoppers? Around half of the users of smartphone brands shop at least once per week: iPhone (54%), Xiaomi (49%), Vivo (49%), Samsung (48%), Honor (47%), Redmi (46%), Oppo (35%). But there’s one brand that stands out ahead of the pack – 61% of users of Huawei smartphones shop at least once a week.

Healthier selves and smarter homes

It’s interesting to see how the pandemic has impacted our preferences for health care products in the field of wearables. The number of consumers who own a connected health and fitness device increased by 46% since 2019 – that’s the biggest gain of all wearables. Going forward and into next year, the hottest wearables to buy are smart watches and wireless headphones – 27% of consumers plan to buy a smart watch and 26% plan to buy wireless headphones.

As we locked down this year, it seems many of us looked around our homes and decided to make improvements. Adding a new smart home device like a connected washing machine or smart refrigerator has become an exceedingly popular decision – in our survey, 83% of households in China plan to add a new smart home device in the next 12 months.  In fact, nearly a third of those households with smart home device shopping plans will be looking for a new smart household applicance.

The 5G momentum in China

It’s heartening to see these trends and they reveal a surge in our smartphone shopping habits, wearables and smart devices. And with more 5G mobile services expected in China, the momentum will surely carry forward. 5G is the key driving factor supporting economic growth, transforming businesses and delivering innovative new services. China was one of the first to launch 5G services, resulting in growing consumer excitement and shopping! Hype is making way for reality.

By 2024, GSMA Intelligence forecasts that mobile technologies and services will surpass $900 billion. The success of 5G heavily relies on government support for timely access to a wide range of affordable spectrum, and under the right conditions. Spectrum above 24 GHz – mmWave spectrum – will play a vital role in the future success of 5G in China, thanks to its super high speeds and ultra-low-latency. Both are especially important for industrial applications that demand such capabilities. Spectrum in the mid-bands, the 6 GHz band in particular that China is leading the development on, will also be crucial to safeguard wider coverage and increased capacity to cater for the proliferation of 5G devices.  

As China pushes forward with greater 5G coverage and capacity, the million-dollar question is: what applications will make the most of it? More consumers equipped with 5G devices will push great minds to bring imagination to reality, such as immersive experience with AR/VR devices. We remain excited and inspired by  the role 5G will play in driving economic recovery.

Coming soon, at MWC Shanghai, 23 – 25 February 2021, the GSMA looks forward to highlighting some of these innovative 5G applications at our upcoming MWC Shanghai event. From industrial transformation, mmWave for Winter Olympics and immersive XR experiences, we’ll show how 5G can make our world and future better in the first-ever “5G INnovation” zone. This zone can’t be missed if you want to see and feel the changes that 5G is shaping. MWC Shanghai 2021 will be a physical event with online platforms for international audiences unable to join in person. It will be the first of GSMA’s MWC 21 event series and the first hybrid event. Please join us, as we show how the digital ecosystem continues to transform our lives. This is “connected impact”, intelligently connecting everyone and everything to a better future.   

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