Silicon shortage could prevent UK consumers from buying new smartphones, laptops and cars before Christmas

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UK consumers may find themselves unable to purchase new smartphones, laptops and cars as Christmas approaches due to soaring silicon prices and a subsequent shortage of semiconductor chips.

Computer experts said I buyers need to be prepared not to buy new gadgets as manufacturers struggle to source essential components.

Globally, Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 game consoles have been scarce, while Apple was forced to delay the launch of its iPhone 12 smartphone until last fall.

The availability of semiconductors, the computer chips that power smartphones, laptops, washing machines, cars and many other electronic products, has been severely affected by a combination of factors, including manufacturing delays caused by the pandemic, stricter international restrictions on the movement of supplies and the increased cost of shipping.

A Bosch employee holds a semiconductor wafer in a clean room at the company’s manufacturing base in Reutlingen, near Stuttgart, Germany (Photo: Reuters)

Dr Bill Mitchell OBE, director of policy at BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT, suggested that while it was still not clear whether buyers would face a definitive shortage of electronics, reconsidering planned purchases could help. to avoid disappointment if prices were to increase. .

“Maybe with our need to reach Net Zero and with COP26 starting this month, it’s a good time to think about keeping electronic gear longer rather than rushing to buy the last thing. “, did he declare. I.

“Maybe I don’t need a new iPad or iPhone, or the new PlayStation 5, and my car will be fine for another three years or so if I take care of it.

“It is difficult to say whether there will be a real shortage or simply delays in the delivery of equipment. If the normal rules of capitalism work, what will happen will be an increase in prices as demand exceeds supply. ”

The UK is one of the world’s largest producers of electronic waste (e-waste), which the United Nations has named the fastest growing domestic and commercial waste stream.

Automakers and suppliers are under intense pressure to meet the growing demand for new vehicles, which rely on chips to run everything from their brakes and safety systems to air conditioning and entertainment facilities.

The lobby group, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) predicts that the chip crisis will wipe out 100,000 units of the UK’s total auto production for the year, a development it called “extremely worrying “.

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Semiconductor shortage could last for years, Intel chief warns

The price of silicon metal, a critical component of semiconductors, also rose 300 percent in less than two months after China slashed production levels in a bid to cut energy use.

Major chipmakers Intel and Dell have suggested the shortage will last for several years, while Xbox chief Phil Spencer said the lack of chips, coupled with supply chain constraints, means consoles would likely remain slim in the field until 2022.

Ben Wood, chief analyst at researchers CCS Insight, hopes supply is expected to increase to meet demand levels by June 2022.

“The sad reality for consumers is that the shortage of chipsets is going to mean limited supply and higher prices for most consumer electronics and other products such as cars for a while. will normalize by the middle of next year.


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