Smartphones To Overtake Feature Phones This Year
March 4, 2013

Smartphones To Overtake Feature Phones This Year

Enid Burns for — Your Universe Online

Smartphone shipments are expected to outnumber shipments for feature phones globally in 2013. That's according to the IDC report "Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker." The report estimates vendors will ship 918.6 million smartphones this year. The total equals 50.1 percent of the total mobile phone shipments worldwide.

In some countries, mobile phones are the primary means for Internet access. In addition to the growing capabilities of smartphones, prices have fallen in that advanced category of mobile phones. Many regions have access to 4G, high-speed wireless networks, which help contribute to the growth of smartphones.

While smartphones have passed the 50 percent mark, it will become that much harder for smartphone manufacturers to gain additional market share.

"We're starting to come out of the heady moments with smartphone growth," Chris Silva, industry analyst at Altimeter Group told redOrbit.

Smartphone adoption is shifting. Growth previously came from mature economies such as the US Lower price points and additional factors are growing adoption in emerging markets where the user base hasn't yet traded in their feature phones for smartphones. Smartphone shipments to China, Brazil and India will comprise a growing percentage of smartphone volume for the coming year.

"While we don't expect China's smartphone growth to maintain the pace of a runaway train as it has over the last two years, there continue to be big drivers to keep the market growing as it leads the way to ever-lower smartphone prices and the country's transition to 4G networks is only just the beginning," said Melissa Chau, senior research manager at IDC Asia/Pacific. "Even as China starts to mature, there remains enormous untapped potential in other emerging markets like India, where we expect less than half of all phones shipped there to be smartphones by 2017, and yet it will weigh in as the world's third largest market."

Shipments for the US are expected to reach 137.5 million units in 2013. In the same period, shipments are forecast to reach 301.2 million in China; 28.9 million in Brazil; and 27.8 million in India. Smartphone shipments to other countries include 35.5 million units to the United Kingdom; 35.2 million units to Japan; and 352.5 million shipments to other countries tracked by IDC for the report.

The next few years will see massive growth in emerging markets. In China, shipments are expected to increase to 457.9 million, a 52 percent growth from 2013. India is expected to see 459.7 percent growth with shipments totaling 155.6 million by 2017; Brazil will see shipments double to 66.3 million, accounting for 129.4 percent growth between 2013 and 2017.

“Brazilians have yet to turn in their feature phones for smartphones on a wholesale basis,” said Bruno Freitas, Consumer Devices research manager for IDC Brazil. "The smartphone tide is turning in Brazil though, as wireless service providers and the government have laid the groundwork for a strong smartphone foundation that mobile phone manufacturers can build upon.

Smartphone adoption in Brazil is driven by a few factors including tax breaks for vendors that create jobs via local mobile phone production. Wireless service providers are also offering greater subsidies to drive smartphone sales, hoping for higher data revenue streams in the future.