Smartphones will finally become the norm

February 14, 2013

It looks increasingly likely that 2013 will mark the year that smartphones finally make up the majority of new phone sales. And it’s Google and Apple that are firmly driving that trend.

For several years now the worldwide gap between basic cellphones (labeled as featurephones) and smartphones has been narrowing. Smartphones already make up a clear majority of sales in countries such as the US and it’s only been developing markets that have kept them in a minority.

Research firm Gartner has now made forecasts for total 2013 shipments, based on a combination of actual sales figures and manufacturer and network plans. It reckons that during this year we’ll buy a total of 1.9 billion phones. That’s a truly staggering figure as it means that more than in four people on the planet will get a new phone this year.

Of that total, Gartner predicts right around one billion will be smartphones, giving it a slim majority. The final push over the 50 percent barrier looks to be driven by sales in developing markets where manufacturers have started offering handsets that qualify as smartphones (which usually means the ability to install run applications) but are cheap enough that they can be bought outright without needing a network subsidy and a mandatory contract.

Gartner also has confirmed figures for the last three months of 2012 that show three companies in particular will benefit from the smartphone boom. It’s found that 70.1 percent of new smartphones worldwide run Google’s Android, while 21 percent are on Apple’s iOS. That’s the highest combined total ever and firmly establishes that it’s a two horse race for mobile operating systems. It’s the same story when it comes to manufacturing: 52 percent of new smartphones are now made by either Apple or Samsung.

Combine those figures with the 2013 forecast and you get another amazing stat: if Gartner is correct, more than one-tenth of the world’s population will be buying an Android handset this year.

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