Smartphone Sales to Top 1 Billion in 2013

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The worldwide market for mobile phones is expected to grow by 7.3% in 2013, and global shipments of smartphones is expected to pass the 1 billion unit mark in a single year for the first time. Smartphone growth is forecast to be 40% higher than 2012 shipments. A total of 1.8 billion mobile phones — feature phones and smartphones — are forecast to ship in 2013.

The booming sales in smartphone shipments is the result of two major trends. First, in developed markets prices to consumers are falling as carriers offer higher subsidies for the devices. Second, smartphones costing less than $200 are becoming widely available in emerging markets. The data come from research firm International Data Corp. (IDC).

On the operating system side of the equation, Android from Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) and iOS from Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) continue to lead by wide margins. The Windows Phone operating system from Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) and BlackBerry OS from BlackBerry Ltd. (NASDAQ: BBRY) trail well behind.

Android is forecast to take a 75.3% market share in 2013, while iOS grabs a 16.9% share. Windows Phone is expected to garner a 3.9% share while BlackBerry OS is tabbed to get 2.7%.

IDC also forecasts operating system market share through 2017, when the firm says that Android will have 68.3% of the market, compared with 17.9% for iOS, 10.2% for Windows Phone and 1.9% for BlackBerry. The huge number of Android-based phones will slide somewhat simply because it is so dominant right now and it is likely to lose share to competitors.

Apple’s iOS remains the clear second choice, and the expected introduction of a low-cost iPhone should allow the company to fish in a bigger pond. IDC expects Apple to set a deal with China’s largest mobile carrier, China Mobile Ltd. (NYSE: CHL). The high price points for the iPhone temper the growth of iOS.

Windows Phone shipments are assumed to be largely, if not exclusively, from Microsoft’s newly acquired mobile business from Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK). IDC also believes that Microsoft/Nokia will need to ship more low-cost smartphones in emerging markets.

BlackBerry continues to post only tepid growth as stronger competition from competing phones and operating systems will eat away at the company’s remaining markets.

By 2017, IDC expects mobile phone shipments to reach 2.3 billion by 2017 and smartphone shipments to reach 1.7 billion in the same year. An IDC analyst noted:

Smartphones will represent virtually all the mobile phone market in many of the world’s most developed economies by the end of 2017. Aggressive carrier subsidies of handsets, falling prices, higher consumer awareness, and a vast array of devices will mean almost all phones shipped to the developed world will be “smart.” However, smartphone shipment volume will be dominated by emerging markets, such as China, even though the percentage of smartphones to feature phones will not be as high.