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IDC: Smartphones To Dominate Global Cellular Shipments

3/10/2013 08:00:00 PM Eastern

FRAMINGHAM, MASS. – The rest of the world with catch up with the U.S. in 2012 when global shipments of smartphones will exceed feature-phone shipments for the first time, IDC forecast.

In the U.S., smartphones first outsold feature phones in 2011, with the first quarter of that year marking the first quarter that smartphones dominated, the research and consulting company said.

In 2013, vendors will ship 918.6 million smartphones throughout the world, or 50.1 percent of total cellphone shipments worldwide, IDC said. By the end of 2017, 1.5 billion smartphones will be shipped worldwide, accounting for slightly more than two-thirds of the total mobile phone forecast for the year.

To date, “much of the world’s smartphone shipments were a direct result of demand in mature economies such as the U.S.,” IDC said, but smartphone demand is gradually shifting to emerging markets “where smartphone user bases are still relatively small and economic prospects are considerably higher.” China supplanted the U.S. last year as the global leader in smartphone shipments, the company noted.

“Smartphone prices have fallen globally, the smartphone strata are wider than ever, and the rollout of data-centric fourth-generation (4G) wireless networks are three factors that have made these do-it-all devices an increasingly attractive option for users,” IDC said.

China will remain tops in smartphone share through 2017, when it will account for 30.2 percent of global smartphones shipments, down from 32.8 percent in 2013. The U.S. will remain in second place, with 12.1 percent unit share in 2017, down from 15 percent in 2013.

IDC noted that the smaller vendors also enjoyed a healthy quarter. The remaining manufacturers saw shipments increase 77.4 percent to 11.6 million for 18.5 percent of the market.

Microsoft shipped 900,000 Surface RT units into the channel during the quarter, but IDC added that these failed to gain much traction among consumers.

“We believe that Microsoft and its partners need to quickly adjust to the market realities of smaller screens and lower prices. In the long run, consumers may grow to believe that high-end computing tablets with desktop operating systems are worth a higher premium than other tablets, but until then [average selling prices] on Windows 8 and Windows RT devices need to come down to drive higher volumes,” said Ryan Reith, IDC’s mobile device trackers program manager.