Will the 2019 Macs be exciting enough to reduce the downward sales trend of PCs?

Worldwide shipments of devices — personal computers (PCs), tablets and mobile phones — are on pace to reach 2.21 billion units in 2019, exhibiting flat growth year over year, according to Gartner, Inc. The PC market is expected to continue its downward trend, while the mobile phone market is set to return to growth in 2020.

That’s good news for the iPhone. The question is: can Apple release some Macs exciting enough to reverse the trend when it comes to its own desktops and laptops. It could be if analyst Ming-Chi Kuo is correct in his predictions. He thinks Apple will introduce new 16-inch to 16.5-inch MacBook Pros aimed at hardcore gamers and pro designers. Kuo also expects an upgraded version of 13-inch MacBook Pro with support for 32GB of RAM (up from the current limit of 16GB).

Kuo is also looking forward to a 31.5-inch Apple 6K display that will will feature "outstanding picture quality thanks to its adoption of the Mini LED-like backlight design.” If that’s true, it’s possible that we could get a 31.5-inch iMac released later this year. 

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What’s more, the long-promised, new, modular Mac Pro is due this year. Finally, it’s possible we might see the first Mac (probably a new 12-inch MacBook) with ARM chips before year’s end. If most of these things happen, it could ignite Mac sales because — let’s face it — there haven’t been any really exciting Mac update for some time now.

"For the eighth consecutive year, the PC market is at a standstill," says Ranjit Atwal, research director at Gartner. “PC shipments will total 258 million units in 2019, a 0.6 percent decline from 2018.” Traditional PCs are set to decline 3% in 2019 to total 189 million units.

Consumers are increasingly retiring their PCs but not replacing them, with shipments down by another 2.5 million units in 2019, he adds. Gartner analysts predict that Windows 10 will represent 75% of the professional PC market by 2021.

Meanwhile, shipments of mobile phones are estimated by Gartner to reach 1.8 billion units in 2019, a decline of 0.5% year-over-year. In 2020, the mobile phone market is forecast to return to growth, with a shipments increase of 1.2% from 2019, according to the research group.. Nevertheless, vendors need to realize that consumers are extending the lifetime of their phones. Gartner expects the average high-end phone lifetime to increase from 2.6 years to 2.8 years through 2023.

A number of vendors recently unveiled foldable phones during Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, with many estimated to launch in late 2019.

While Gartner analysts expect foldable phones to potentially re-inject innovation in the smartphone market, they are cautious about their short-term uptake due to trade-offs. Gartner estimates that foldable phones will account for 5% of high-end phones by 2023, amounting to 30 million units.

Apple has filed various patents regarding foldable iPhones. But I’m a bit dubious we’ll see one at all, and I predict none of the 2019 models will be foldable.

“We expect that users will use a foldable phone as they do their regular smartphone, picking it up hundreds of times a day, unfolding it sporadically and typing on its plastic screen, which may scratch quickly depending on the way it folds,” says  Cozza. “Through the next five years, we expect foldable phones to remain a niche product due to several manufacturing challenges. In addition to the surface of the screen, the price is a barrier despite we expect to decline with time. Currently priced at $2,000, foldable phones present too many trade-offs, even for many early technology adopters.”

In the short term, Gartner analysts expect manufacturers to provide more form factor experimentation with foldable phones, as they aim to understand optimal usability patterns and user preferences. 

“A key consideration for product managers is to place usability at the core of their product development, ensuring the user experience is continuous and seamless across all foldable screens,” says Cozza.