Best Global Consumer Markets for Selling Imported Cellphones

Worth a total US$259.7 billion for 2020, cellphones rank among the top 5 most valuable imported consumer products in the world. Cellphones are portable communication devices specifically designed for cellular or other wireless networks.

The dollar amount spent on global cellphone imports in 2020 represents a -7.7% drop from 2019 but a 5.7% increase compared to imported mobile phone spending in 2016.

While international sales of imported cellphones did slow year over year, mobile phones are still the most popular form of telephone sets on the planet by far.

Consider that imports of regular telephones minus cellphones and excluding line phones with cordless handsets cost a total $3.6 billion in 2020, down -34.6% over a 5-year period. Line phones with cordless handsets attracted even lower international sales amounting to $1.2 billion displaying a -36.5% drop. Combined, these non-mobile phones equal less than 2% of the revenues for cellphones imported during 2020.

The 5 most lucrative global consumer markets for importing mobile phones generate nearly half (48.1%) of worldwide revenues. The highest cashflows are generated by buyers in: United States (19%), Hong Kong (14.1%), Japan (5.7%), Germany (5.2%) and United Arab Emirates (4%).

Among these leading 5 cellphone-importing markets, the lone year-over-year increase was the 15.8% gain for Germany. Declines for the other 4 key cellphone buyers range from -1.1% for Hong Kong to -42.4% for the United Arab Emirates.

The following analysis focuses on metrics measuring consumer demand in the top 50 global markets for cellphones.

By comparing changes in consumer demand for imported mobile phones by country, we can uncover the most attractive opportunities for selling mobile phones and related products and services on international markets.

Cellphones Are Consumer Shopping Products

Cellphones meet the criteria of a consumer good (also called an end product) created by businesses for consumers to buy in its final form. In contrast, products like turbojets are usually purchased by companies or government entities rather than individuals.

Economists classify cellphones as shopping products, a technical classification for goods that are not as easily accessible as at local convenience stores or grocery shops.

A cellphone is also defined as a shopping product because it is durable since it can be re-used for at least 3 years; typically requires more time before the consumer makes a buying decision; and is not bought as often as less expensive items such as food or beverages.

Although some consumers like to upgrade their mobile phones every 1 or 2 years, the average lifespan for a mobile phone is 4.7 years according to 2015 research cited by

To ensure longer cellphone usability, experts recommend keeping your cellphone clean, avoid overcharging the phone battery, and protect against damages to the mobile phone’s screen resulting from rough handling.

Imported Cellphones Bought by Country

The sortable table below showcases marketing intelligence for the top 50 buyers of mobile phones, ranked in descending order starting with the greatest annual sales the 6-digit Harmonized System (HS) code level. For cellphones, the HS code is 851712.

Also shown is the percentage of the world’s total purchases of imported cellphones in 2020, as well as the change in those sales from 2019 to 2020.

1United States$49,461,171,00019%-9.5%
2Hong Kong$36,629,243,00014.1%-1.1%
5United Arab Emirates$10,489,840,0004%-42.4%
6United Kingdom$10,139,914,0003.9%-4.5%
7Czech Republic$7,205,913,0002.8%+0.2%
15South Korea$4,103,680,0001.6%+8.6%
16Saudi Arabia$4,031,153,0001.6%-20.6%
41South Africa$929,025,0000.4%-18.1%

Among the above 50 key global markets, 24 countries increased their purchases of imported cellphones. The 5 leading buying increases were India (up 149.5%), China (up 105%), Pakistan (up 66.3%), Vietnam (up 41.9%) and Brazil (up 30.9%).

Leading the decliners year over year was Egypt (down -43.1%).

Significant declines for cellphone imports were also experienced in United Arab Emirates (down -42.4%), Paraguay (down -30.3%), Mexico (down -28.2%), Saudi Arabia (down -20.6%), South Africa (down -18.1%) and Malaysia (down -17.2%).

Richest Global Markets for Imported Cellphones

Shown below is the market demand for cellphones imported during 2020 by 30 of world’s richest countries in terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per person, according to

Countries are listed in descending order starting with the wealthiest economy in terms of GDP per capita.

  1. Luxembourg: US$143.1 million (Down -33.7% from 2019)
  2. Singapore: $4.5 billion (Down -10.5%)
  3. Ireland: $625.0 million (Up 3.6%)
  4. Qatar: $160.8 million (Down -59.9%)
  5. Macao: $520.8 million (Down -18.9%)
  6. Switzerland: $1.4 billion (Down -3.4%)
  7. Norway: $1.0 billion (Down -5.5%)
  8. United States: $49.5 billion (Down -9.5%)
  9. Brunei Darussalam: $22.6 million (Up 16.4%)
  10. Hong Kong: $36.6 billion (Down -1.1%)
  11. Denmark: $1.2 billion (Up 3.7%)
  12. Netherlands: $5.1 billion (Up 12.8%)
  13. United Arab Emirates: $10.5 billion (Down -42.4%)
  14. Taiwan: $2.9 billion (Down -1.6%)
  15. Iceland: $46.4 million (Down -12.9%)
  16. Austria: $4.2 billion (Down -13.5%)
  17. Germany: $13.4 billion (Up 15.8%)
  18. Sweden: $3.4 billion (Up 2.3%)
  19. Australia: $3.8 billion (Down -4.1%)
  20. Belgium: $2.2 billion (Up 25.5%)
  21. Finland: $774.3 million (Up 0.7%)
  22. Canada: $5.1 billion (Down -12.4%)
  23. Bahrain: $42.8 million (Down -82.9%)
  24. France: $6.1 billion (Down -1.8%)
  25. Saudi Arabia: $4.0 billion (Down -20.6%)
  26. United Kingdom: $10.1 billion (Down -4.5%)
  27. South Korea: $4.1 billion (Up 8.6%)
  28. Malta: $21.4 million (Down -21.5%)
  29. Japan: $14.9 billion (Down -3.5%)
  30. New Zealand: $623.5 million (Down -1.2%)

Nine among the above richest economies spent more on imported cellphones in 2020 compared to 2019. The top gainers were Belgium (up 25.5%), Brunei Darussalam (up 16.4%), Germany (up 15.8%), Netherlands (up 12.8%) and South Korea (up 8.6%).

Enduring the greatest declines were Bahrain (down -82.9%), Qatar (down -59.9%), United Arab Emirates (down -42.4%), Luxembourg (down -33.7%), Malta (down -21.5%) and Saudi Arabia (down -20.6%).

Top 10 US Imported Cellphones Suppliers

United States of America is the world’s biggest market for imported mobile phones as measured by total sales.  Remarkably, its top 2 suppliers accounted for 95.5% of America’s purchases of imported cellphones for 2020.

The following countries benefited the most from selling imported cellphones into the US in 2020.

  1. China: US$39.1 billion (79% of US total)
  2. Vietnam: $8.1 billion (16.5%)
  3. South Korea: $1.3 billion (2.7%)
  4. India: $457.1 million (0.9%)
  5. Japan: $127.6 million (0.3%)
  6. Hong Kong: $82.6 million (0.2%)
  7. Taiwan: $79.9 million (0.2%)
  8. Indonesia: $37.6 million (0.1%)
  9. Philippines: $18.8 million (0.04%)
  10. Singapore: $17.2 million (0.03%)

Four among America’s major suppliers of cellphones increased their sales from 2019 to 2020: India (up 519.7%), Singapore (up 278.4%), Indonesia (up 257.1%) and Taiwan (up 114%).

The greatest annual supplier decreases in US imports of mobile phones on global markets were experienced by South Korea (down -63.9%), Philippines (down -56%), Japan (down -41.8%) and Hong Kong (down -39.1%).

Cellphones Imported by Key American States

The following 9 states imported 97.2% worth of America’s total spending on cellphones purchased from international suppliers in 2020.

  1. Illinois: US$18.8 billion (37.9% of US total)
  2. Texas: $8.7 billion (17.7%)
  3. California: $8.5 billion (17.1%)
  4. Tennessee: $3.6 billion (7.3%)
  5. Florida: $2.7 billion (5.5%)
  6. Pennsylvania: $2.6 billion (5.3%)
  7. New York: $1.3 billion (2.7%)
  8. Nevada: $981.3 million (2%)
  9. New Jersey: $818.2 million (1.7%)

Two among the above American states increased their imports of mobile phones from 2019 to 2020 namely New Jersey (up 5.9%) and New York (up 45.5%).

The greatest year-over-year reductions were posted by Nevada (down -35.9%), Illinois (down -25.1%), Florida (down -22.2%) and California (also down -22.2%).

More Market Metrics for US Cellphone Imports

In terms of product quantity, the United States imported 181.4 million cellphones in 2020. The latest annual number of cellphones imported into America is a -12.9% decrease from the 208.4 million imported mobile phones bought in 2019 from international suppliers.

To give some perspective to the above numbers benchmarking the world’s biggest market for imported cellphones, Canada imported 11.7 million cellphones from international suppliers (down -8.1% from 2019).

Australia imported 9.9 million cellphones for 2020 (down -0.4% year over year) while Japan bought 32 million imported mobile phones (up 4.2%).

The average unit value that American importers paid for foreign-made cellphones in 2020 was $273 (up 4.2% from 2019).

In contrast, buyers in Japan paid a greater average price of $466 for imported cellphones (down -7.4%).

Importers in Canada spent an average $435 per imported cellphone (down -4.6%). The comparable unit cost for Australian importers was $387 (down -3.7%).

World’s Biggest Smartphone Makers

The following metrics are specific to smartphones, a type of cellphone but with more advanced features. A smartphone is more robust and customizable than the simple and basic cellphone. Most phones sold these  days are smartphones unless consumers can only afford a cellphone.

A smartphone more closely resembles a miniature computer that does much more than place and receive calls. Most smartphones can connect to online stores via thousands of apps that turn the phone into a virtual assistant.

Below you will find the top 10 largest multinational companies that manufacture smartphones. The list is ranked in descending order based on global smartphone market share in September 2020.

The listed percentages encompass both domestic and international shipments.

  1. Samsung Electronics (Seoul, South Korea): 22% global market share
  2. Huawei (Shenzhen, China): 14%
  3. Xiaomi (Beijing, China): 13%
  4. Apple (Cupertino, USA): 11%
  5. Oppo (Guangdong, China): 8%
  6. Vivo (Guangdong, China): 8%
  7. Realme (Shenzhen, China): 4%
  8. Lenovo Group (Quarry Bay, Hong Kong): 3%
  9. LG (Seoul, South Korea): 2%
  10. Tecno (Shenzhen, China): 2%

Shown within brackets is the city which serves as the global headquarters for each smartphone manufacturer.

Note that 9 of the world’s largest manufacturers of smartphones are in Asia, with 7 in mainland China or Hong Kong.

In terms of the number of smartphones sold to both domestic and international customers, South Korea’s Samsung Electronics shipped 79.8 million of these mobile phones during the third quarter of 2020.

Samsung’s benchmark amount compares to 50.9 million smartphones shipped by China’s Huawei, 46.2 million units for another Chinese supplier Xiaomi, and 41.7 million smartphones from American consumer electronics colossus Apple.

See also

More great research: Top Importers of Laptop Computers Ranked by Dollar Value, Best Global Consumer Markets for Selling Imported Cars, World’s 200 Most Valuable Imported Consumer Products, Best Global Consumer Markets for Selling Imported Wine


Independent insights and analysis presented in this article are based on researched facts and statistics sourced from the following educational portals.

BoyceWire, Consumer Goods Definition., Your Phone’s Lifespan is Five Years – Here’s How to Keep it Going!

Forbes, The Forbes Global 2000 List.

Gadgets Now, 10 ‘biggest’ smartphone companies in the world right now.

International Trade Centre, Trade Map.

Investopedia, Consumer Goods, Consumer Staples Definition, Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG).

Lifewire, Cellphones vs. Smartphones

Richest Country Reports, Top 50 Richest Countries by GDP per Capita.

United States Census Bureau, Foreign Trade State Data.

World’s Top Exports, Cellphone Exports by Country.

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