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North American Smartphone Shipments Rise Despite Market Maturity

EL SEGUNDO, CALIF. — North American smartphone shipments will rise this year by 13.8 percent to 138.3 million, following 2013 growth of 12.9 percent, and will grow another 8.1 percent in 2015 despite market maturity, IHS forecasts.

The smartphone mix is also changing, with 4G shipments on the rise and 3G shipments sliding. Shipments of 4G phones grew 101 percent in 2013 to 67.8 million and will grow 28 percent in 2014 and 21 percent in 2015, IHS said.

Shipments continue to rise in large part because carriers are promoting no-contract no-subsidy phones on installment-payment plans, which give users the option to trade up more frequently than they could under two-year-contract plans, said senior analyst Wayne Lam.

“The shifts in handset subsidies and financing are definitely encouraging the uptake in ship-in volumes,” he said. “In mature markets like North America, smartphone growth is more driven by replacements rather than upgrades from feature phones,” he explained.

“When we look at the majority of the subscribership in the U.S., it is mainly still a postpaid scenario with a heavy mix toward premium (high-end) smartphones that have ASPs above the $550 mark. The biggest lever to drive new smartphone volumes will be to eliminate term conditions that artificially lock in upgrade cycles at 24 months, allowing subscribers to pick up new devices sooner.”