At least 1.5 billion smartphones will be shipped around the world in 2017, with over 1 billion shipping with Android alone, according to new estimates published today by independent analyst firm Canalys.
The falling price of these devices, both in terms of production costs for hardware manufacturers and the price tag seen by consumers in-store, should mean that smartphones make up 73 percent of all mobile phone shipments that year.
Canalys claims that “virtually all” handsets shipped to North America and Western Europe will be smartphones and in Greater China, that figure should rise to 95 percent.
“So far, the problem with low-cost smart phones has been that the user experience has been compromised to hit lower price points,” Chris Jones, Principal Analyst at Canalys said. “This is why Nokia has been so successful with its Asha portfolio. These handsets have been purpose-built and provide a great ‘pseudo-smart phone’ experience. But the situation will change over the next few years.”
Jones argues that as component prices fall, vendors will be able to deliver better experiences at lower price points, all but making feature phones “extinct” in many international markets.
Canalys predicts that Android, which recently hit 900 million total activations and 48 billion app downloads, will be the primary driver of this market shift. It estimates that the number of smartphones shipped with Google’s mobile operating system will increase to over 1 billion in 2017 – more than double the 470 million distributed this year.
Demand for Apple’s own smartphone offerings will continue to grow, but Canalys believes that the company’s upward trajectory will be at a slower rate than the rest of the industry. The company’s market share will therefore fall from 19.5 percent in 2012 to 14.1 percent in 2017, as Android climbs to 67.1 percent of global shipments.
“Apple’s growth will be curtailed by the fact that momentum in the smart phone market is coming from the low-end, and Apple is absent from this segment,” Jessica Kwee, Canalys Analyst said.
The research firm doesn’t believe the rumors of a new low-end iPhone to be unveiled later this year, it would seem.
Figures published by the International Data Corproation (IDC) for the first quarter of 2013 showed that Windows Phone had leap-frogged BlackBerry to third place in the smartphone race.
Canalys expects that to continue, with Microsoft’s market share growing from just 2.4 percent to 12.7 percent by 2017. The firm points to the “scalability” of the Windows Phone platform and believes that Nokia and Huawei, alongside other partners such as Lenovo and ZTE, to pitch new products at the low-end.
It’s not all doom and gloom for BlackBerry either. The company’s market share should remain relatively stable between now and 2017, although its smartphone shipments will more than double in the next four years, according to Canalys.