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Remote and Hybrid Work Is Increasing the Number of Devices Per Person

The number of devices (PCs: laptops and deskbased), tablets and mobile phones) in use globally will total 6.2 billion units in 2021, according to Gartner, Inc. In 2021, 125 million more laptops and tablets are expected to be in use than in 2020.

Commenting on the findings, Gartner Senior Research Director Ranjit Atwal said the COVID-19 pandemic has permanently changed device usage patterns of employees and consumers.

“With remote work turning into hybrid work, home education changing into digital education and interactive gaming moving to the cloud, both the types and number of devices people need, have and use will continue to rise,” said Ranjit Atwal.

In 2022, global devices installed base is on pace to reach 6.4 billion units, up 3.2% from 2021 (see Figure 1). While the shift to remote work exacerbated the decline of desktop PCs, it boosted the use of tablets and laptops.

Laptops, desktops

In 2021, the number of laptops and tablets in use will increase 8.8% and 11.7%, respectively, while the number of deskbased PCs in use is expected to decline from 522 million in use in 2020 to a forecasted 470 million in use in 2022.

Figure 1: Installed Base of Devices, Worldwide, 2019-2022 (Thousands of Units)

Source: Gartner (April 2021)
Smartphone Installed Base Set for Upturn in 2021

Users’ confidence is returning in the smartphone market. Although the number of smartphones in use declined 2.6% in 2020, smartphone installed base is on pace to return to growth with a 1% increase in 2021.

With more variety and choice, and lower-priced 5G smartphones to choose from, Ranjit Atwal said consumers have begun to either upgrade their smartphones or upgrade from feature phones.

“The smartphone is also a key tool that people use to communicate and share moments during social distancing and social isolation,” said Gartner Senior Research Director Ranjit Atwal.

Flexibility of use

The integration of personal and business lives, together with a much more dispersed workforce requires flexibility of device choice. Workers are increasingly using a mix of company-owned devices and their own personal devices running on Chrome, iOS and Android, which is increasing the complexity of IT service and support.

Gartner Senior Research Director Ranjit Atwal said connectivity is already a pain-point for many users who are working remotely.

“But as mobility returns to the workforce, the need to equip employees able to work anywhere with the right tools, will be crucial,” said Mr. Atwal. “Demand for connected 4G/5G laptops and other devices will rise as business justification increases,” he said.


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