IDC: Smartphone Adoption Growing Faster Than Expected

In the wake of a recent downgrade to its worldwide PC forecast, market research firm International Data Corp. (IDC) this week upgraded its forecast for converged mobile devices, also known as smartphones. The company also forecast increased market shares for the Android and Windows Mobile operating systems at the expense of both the Symbian mobile OS and Apple's iOS.

For 2010, IDC is now predicting total shipments of 269.6 million smartphones. Compared with the 173.5 million units shipped in 2009, IDC expects to see a 55.4 percent increase in units shipped for this year. IDC's March forecast had been less optimistic, predicting just a 30.7 percent increase in smartphone unit shipments for this year.

IDC still sees growth ahead when considering the overall mobile phone market for this year. The research firm expects to see it grow 14.1 percent in 2010 compared with last year's figure.

Growth is being powered, in part, by "an expected flurry of smartphone buying activity in the second half of the year" that is expected to follow new product launches, according to Kevin Restivo, an IDC senior research analyst. And it's coming amidst shifting dynamics in the area of mobile operating systems.

Despite perceptions, Apple isn't the leading mobile OS vendor (see chart). As of 2010, according to IDC, Apple's iOS (which powers the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad) holds the fourth-largest share of the mobile OS market, at 14.7 percent. That's behind Symbian's 40.1 percent, BlackBerry OS' 17.9 percent, and Android's 16.3 percent. The only mobile OS that Apple's iOS currently beats out in the market is Windows Mobile, IDC reported, which holds a 6.8 percent market share. (The "other" category made up the remainder of the stats.)

By 2014, IDC said, those numbers will be a lot closer. Symbian will decline 17.2 points to hold a 32.9 percent share of the market, it predicts. The Android OS will increase share by 51.2 percent to reach the No. 2 slot, with a 24.6 percent market share. BlackBerry will slip a modest 0.6 points into the No. 3 slot, with a 17.3 percent market share. Apple's iOS market share will decrease 3.8 points (a 25.8 percent decline) to remain barely in the No. 4 slot, with a 10.9 percent share. Windows Mobile will increase three points (a 43.3 percent increase) to remain in last place among the major players, with a 9.8 percent share. (Again, "other" will make up the remainder.)

The incumbent mobile OS market leaders have already reacted to the upstarts, according to Ramon Llamas, another IDC senior research analyst.

"Longtime operating systems leaders BlackBerry, Symbian, and Windows Mobile are about to, or have already, launched refreshed operating systems to compete with recent newcomers Android and iOS," Llamas said in a prepared statement. "The latter operating systems have taken away both mindshare and market share from the old regime, and have helped propel the market forward."

Beyond 2010, smartphones will continue to see strong growth, IDC predicted, despite the weak economy. In 2011, growth will be 24.5 percent, although that will continue to slow through 2014, when growth will be a smaller (but still substantial) 13.6 percent.

About the Author

Dave Nagel is the executive editor for 1105 Media's educational technology online publications and electronic newsletters.

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