We’ve entered the late stages of smartphone adoption across the globe.
Smartphones are already in wide use across most developed markets. In early adopter regions like the U.S., U.K., Australia, much of Western Europe, and a major portion of Asia-Pacific, adoption has ticked well past half of mobile users.
As the smartphone rises, its mobile forebearer, the feature phone, is quickly becoming extinct.
There are still a multitude of mobile subscribers in developing regions who either haven’t had enough incentive to upgrade to smartphones or have been trapped under limited network connections that made smartphones unattractive. But 3G and 4G networks are becoming more and more pervasive around the world. To keep up, multiple vendors are upping their presence in these new growth markets with competitively-priced handsets, which will drive new demand — and make the feature phone officially a relic.
In a recent report from BI Intelligence, we forecast out the next five years of smartphone shipments, break down where most of this future growth will come from, and examine smartphone innovation in the context of all this late-stage growth to decide whether innovation will be sustainable, or if the market will be so commoditized that all competition will boil down to price.
Here are some of the key insights from our smartphone market update:
- We estimate smartphone shipments will grow 35% in 2014 to surpass 1 billion units shipped annually for the first time. Last year, shipments grew about 45%, reaching just shy of the 1 billion units milestone.
- The next billion will come faster than the first billion did. It took about eight years to reach 1 billion annual units shipped, but with steady, new growth from emerging markets, we estimate the 2 billion annual shipments mark will be reached in 2017.
- But because the base of smartphone shipments is much higher now, earlier growth rates are unsustainable and will continue to taper off in the coming years.
- China will be at the forefront of new shipments growth. There will be about 600 million smartphone subscriptions in China by the end of 2014, which is nearly 50% growth over the estimated 400 million smartphone subscribers in 2013. China will account for a 35% share of global smartphone shipments in 2014.
- The end of the feature phone is in sight. We estimate smartphones will make up almost 70% of total mobile phone sales during 2014, and that share will gradually rise to almost 90% by 2018 as smartphones become more ubiquitous.
- A sustained decline in the global average selling price (ASP) of smartphones will drive growth. We estimate the global smartphone ASP will dip 10% in 2014 to about $US250 per unit, and will ultimately fall to about $US165 in 2018.
In full, the report: