The latest data report from International Data Corporation (IDC) in its Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker series has highlighted the record-breaking figure of just over 1 billion smartphones shipped worldwide in 2013, “up 38.4 percent from the 725.3 million units in 2012.” Also spotlighting “a difference of less than 1 percent” from its forecast for full-year shipments in 2013, IDC noted that this growth in smartphone demand is cannibalizing the broader mobile phone market, which grew only 4.8 percent over 2013 to a total figure of almost 1.822 billion units.

Source: IDC Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker, January 27, 2014

IDC’s analysts attribute the rise to “large screen devices and low cost,” among other factors. “Low cost is the key difference maker,” says Ryan Reith, Program Director with IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker. “Cheap devices are not the attractive segment that normally grabs headlines, but IDC data shows this is the portion of the market that is driving volume. Markets like China and India are quickly moving toward a point where sub-$150 smartphones are the majority of shipments, bringing a solid computing experience to the hands of many.”

At this rate, app developers and ebook platforms can look forward to mass smartphone audiences in the world’s most vibrant continental economies, mirroring the trend in cheap tablet adoption across Asia. Apple, interestingly, at least achieved “record shipment volume during 4Q13, driven primarily by the addition of multiple countries offering the iPhone 5S and 5C, and sustained demand from its initial markets that saw these models launch at the end of 3Q13.” However, given the possibility that Apple may scrap the plastic-jacketed approach used in the 5c, it will be interesting to see how this shipment volume coordinates with strategy, not least as “Apple had the lowest year-on-year increase of all the leading vendors.”

Against a somewhat slipping Samsung, meanwhile, third-placed Chinese manufacturer Huawei “attained the highest year-on-year increase among the leading vendors, and raised its brand profile with a higher proportion of self-branded units compared to the ODM work it had done for other companies.” And with Lenovo in the fourth slot, it seems likely that many of those future smartphone ereader apps will be serving up Chinese ebooks.


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