Unless you've been stranded on a desert island for the last few years, you surely can't have failed to notice that the smartphone revolution has really gathered a considerable head of steam. Billions of smartphone handsets have been sold all over the world, and the impact of these small devices certainly outweighs their size by a considerable margin. Many of us use our smartphones to buy goods and services, to keep up with current affairs, to check our emails and so on - not to mention the more traditional function of actually making phone calls. But just what does the future hold for the global smartphone market, and can the rapid growth of recent years continue?
According to a study published this year by ABI Research, 1.4 billion smartphones will be in use by the end of 2013. Some 798 million of these handsets will be powered by Android, while 294 million will run on Apple's iOS. The study predicted an annual growth of 44 per cent in the global smartphone market, which is actually fractionally lower than 2012's growth rate but still indicative of robust expansion. Android is expected to hold a market share of 57 per cent by the end of the year, with iOS claiming 21 per cent.
What's particularly interesting in the ABI report is that it tips marginal players to return to the forefront over the coming months. It predicts that 45 million Windows Phone handsets will be in use at the close of 2013, with Blackberry's base expanding to 20 million after emerging from its particularly torrid spell of recent years. This indicates that rather than the smartphone market losing its vitality, the emergence of new devices on to the market could provide it with further momentum over the months and years ahead.
The ABI study also predicted that the tablet market appears set to grow rapidly, and this may also have an influence on the smartphone market. There are signs that the two technologies are starting to converge, and it will be particularly intriguing to see whether or not this trend really starts to become entrenched over the medium to long term.
A separate study from US research firm Gartner estimated that smartphones would account for half of all mobile phones shipped worldwide by the end of March 2013, with smartphone shipments having soared to a record high of 44 per cent of the overall mobile market in the fourth quarter of 2012. By contrast, shipments of feature phones appear to be in decline, falling by around 20 per cent year-on-year in each quarter. Smartphones, on the other hand, are posting growth of around 40 per cent in the same period.
The rapid growth of the smartphone market poses challenges to manufacturers, however. The most important thing for manufacturers to remember is that they have to find ways of differentiating their products in what is becoming an increasingly crowded marketplace. The dominance of Apple and Android-powered phones is becoming more and more pronounced, but if we've learned anything from the developments of the last few years it's that trying to predict the future evolution of technology with any real certainty is a mug's game. All we can really do is strap ourselves in, sit back and enjoy the ride.
Author: This guest blog was contributed by Jane Foulds a freelance blogger who often writes about tech subjects and who is dead keen on ensuring that you find the best 12 month mobile phone deals.
Photo: 112626665732 by naama.