An estimated 35 percent of all mobile phones sold this year will be smartphones according to one analyst. If that figure sounds surprisingly low, bear in mind it’s a worldwide figure — and could hit 50 percent in a couple of years.
Several reports earlier this year have put the proportion of US handsets near or even above the 50 percent mark. The new global figures from IDC are lower not just as a raw number, but because they only cover recent sales rather than all phones in use.
In it’s own way, the global figure may be more impressive as the US not only has far wealthier citizens than the world as a whole, but also much better coverage of the faster speeds that make constant Internet access a joy on a phone rather than a slow crawling chore.
IDC says the 35 percent figure is up from 30 percent last year, but that it should reach 50 percent in 2014. The latter figure appears not be a straight extrapolation but rather a prediction that the rate of growth will speed up. That could be a combination of more manufacturers intentionally targeting lower income buyers and increasing wealth among some of the nations with the largest populations.
IDC notes that in one market for example, Malaysia, the proportion of smartphones that are priced at the cheaper end of the market is up significantly. It speculates that buyers who’d previously made do with a decent “feature phone” can now get an entry-level smartphone for a similar price.
It may well be that people in lower income nations hold on to handsets for longer than in the richest countries, but the stats certainly suggest that within a few years — perhaps by the end of the decade — the majority of handsets in the world will be smartphones, which is one of the reasons businesses keep on talking about the growth potential of the apps market.
Perhaps surprisingly, when it comes to individual handset models the best sellers worldwide are similar to those in the US: for April through June this year the Galaxy S III took top spot ahead of the iPhone and the HTC One X. (IDC didn’t say if this refers simply to the iPhone 4S, but that appears to be the case.)
That doesn’t necessarily mean these big name models are going gangbusters in the poorest areas of the world: it could simply be that there are many more handsets to choose from at cheap prices, splintering the market.