The latest data on the global mobile phone market from Gartner shows smartphones reaching new levels of penetration and cannibalizing other mobile phone segments in the third quarter of 2014. Against a background of overall flat mobile phone sales during the quarter, “sales of smartphones to end users grew 20.3 percent to reach 301 million units.”
Much of this increase is driven by the progressive disappearance of the feature phone category, as phones that do nothing but phone become an increasingly small slice of the mobile pie, even in emerging markets. “Sales of feature phones declined 25 percent in the third quarter of 2014 because the difference in price between feature phones and low-cost Android smartphones is reducing further,” said Roberta Cozza, research director at Gartner.
Given that pattern, it’s no surprise that Gartner sees both increasing takeup in emerging markets, which “exhibited some of the highest growths ever recorded,” especially in Eastern Europe and North Africa, and a strong showing by Chinese manufacturers, who have targeted the low end of the market and pushed ambitiously into high-growth markets. This is also good news for Android, which stands at just over 83 percent global OS market share. Annette Zimmermann, research director at Gartner, added: “Chinese players will continue to look at expanding in overseas emerging markets.” Leading Chinese manufacturer Xiaomi “made its debut among the top-five smarpthone vendors. It experienced the highest growth of the quarter, with an increase of 336 percent driven by strong performance in China where it became market leader.”
All this should be good news for the majority of the world’s population who do not currently have access to the internet in any form at all. According to Gartner, by 2018, smartphones will account for 90 percent of all mobile phones in use, up from 66 percent in the third quarter this year. That puts internet access in the hands of 90 percent of phone users, with commensurate access to commercial and educational opportunities. It couldn’t come soon enough.