Counterpoint only counts devices which are repaired and enhanced as refurbished models; other second-hand models are counted, but not included in these statistics.
This could account for the fact that there is a big difference between the Counterpoint figures and the forecast issued by IDC earlier this month. IDC predicted that both refurbished and second-hand models would sell 225.4 million units, an increase of 9.2% over the 206.5 million units shipped in 2019.
Counterpoint did not provide any numbers, only percentages. Senior research analyst Glen Cardoza said: “New device sales fell by around 9% in 2020 due to COVID-19 lockdowns and related economic deterrents. This reduced the number of upgrades and smartphones hitting the secondary market.
He said not all segments of the secondary market had seen a drop. “There were some bright spots in the refurbished smartphone ecosystem. Apple grew its share in the secondary market from 39% to 42%. There were some marketplaces in the secondary market which saw growth, such as Back Market and Recommerce.
"An increased number of new businesses dealing in pre-owned smartphones also sprang up. Despite the proliferation of 5G networks, average selling prices of refurbished LTE smartphones grew.”
Research director Jeff Fieldhack said, “China, the most important country in the refurbished market ecosystem, saw significant declines during 2020. The Chinese refurbished smartphone market was hit by tensions between China and Hong Kong and trade battles with the US.
"Many resellers in the secondary market ecosystem avoided China due to more scrutiny by the Chinese Government, the potential for higher import duties, and the rising cost of replacement parts.”