Bolder Thinking Blog

4 Canadian wireless predictions for Q4 2021

August 5th, 2021 | Emily Groch

As marketers plan for Q4 2021, we’ve developed four predictions for the Canadian wireless industry, based on Mintel’s latest consumer shopping data, historical trends in wireless holiday marketing, and industry developments.

Holiday 2021 is prime time for 5G device sales, as consumers who’ve been waiting to upgrade embrace holiday deals

What’s happening
The Canadian household savings rate remains elevated, which could bode well for holiday spending. Consumers who’ve delayed upgrading their phone and/or their family’s (or business’) phones may have been waiting until they had a better sense of their post-vaccinated routines for work, school, and leisure, which may be more established by EOY.

There’s an opportunity to drive 5G device adoption with 5G device deals as, according to Mintel research on consumers’ digital trends, almost half of Canadians don’t currently have 5G, but expect to have it soon or eventually. With more than a quarter of consumers interested in buying a new smartphone if they have the cash for it, carriers can leverage deals to spur action. Males aged 18-34 are a key demographic here, with nearly half saying they’d buy a new phone.

How carriers may respond
While Holiday 2020 saw reduced promotional activity in the Canadian wireless space, in Q4 2021 the Big Three will likely be more aggressive with phone subsidies to take advantage of consumers’ willingness to spend and desire to upgrade. Carriers will target their existing customers, but also look to drive switching activity with their offers and 5G network claims. They will use channels such as paid social to connect with younger consumers, particularly males, who have expressed the greatest interest in purchasing a new phone.

The semiconductor shortage dampens Android device purchases, while iPhone finds success with iPhone 12S, despite only incremental improvements

What’s happening
The semiconductor shortage is impacting some OEMs more than others. Samsung’s CEO has said the company may skip the Galaxy Note 21 release altogether. The Note is a compelling phone for shoppers looking to upgrade to a high-end Android phone, including businesses purchasing phones for employees, and its absence this year could delay upgrades from this audience.

Other Android-based phone manufacturers have also faced tough decisions as a result of the shortage. For instance, Google announced its low-cost Pixel 5a will launch only in Japan and the U.S. this fall. (It’s also worth noting that LG exited the market in 2021, further reducing Android-based options.)

Apple, meanwhile, appears to be largely unaffected by the semiconductor shortage, at least as far as its smartphones are concerned. So iPhone 12S (Apple has not yet confirmed whether its next phone will be called iPhone 12S or iPhone 13) will likely launch in September, and be ready for holiday shoppers. It may be the most exciting device for the holidays, embraced by consumers despite its minor improvements over iPhone 12. Apple will gain a greater foothold in Canada during this period of reduced Android-based inventory. Additionally, with the shortage impacting a huge range of electronics, consumers may be more likely to prioritize new phone purchases over the latest TVs, gaming consoles, or other devices that may be difficult to come by this holiday season.

How carriers may respond
With greater pressure on Android phone inventory, carriers are likely to focus on iPhone deals even more than they usually do. They may also help consumers get more value from new iPhones by featuring special offers on Apple services bundles. Galaxy Notes are often promoted to small businesses, so carriers may focus Q4 B2B deals on Galaxy S21 models, in lieu of the new Note.

What else do we predict will happen in Q4 2021?

  • Lack of demand, paired with the semiconductor shortage, causes carriers to deprioritize tablets and other connected devices in Q4 marketing.
  • Many consumers return to in-store holiday shopping, but online purchasing activity remains elevated.

To learn more about what’s happening now and how we think carriers will respond, Mintel Comperemedia clients can log into their accounts. If you’re not a client, but interested in seeing our remaining two predictions, please get in touch.

Emily Groch

Emily Groch

Emily Groch is Comperemedia’s Director of Insights, Telecommunications, providing omni-channel marketing analysis and competitive insights to telecom providers.