IHS: Smartphones to overtake feature phones in 2013, 2 years earlier than expected

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The smartphone wave overtaking the overall handset industry will move faster than previously expected, with smartphones making up the majority of handset shipments globally in 2013, according to a new report from IHS iSuppli.

IHS predicts that in 2013 smartphones will account for account for 54 percent of the total handset market, up from 46 percent in 2012 and 35 percent in 2011. Smartphones will make up the majority of handset shipments two years earlier than IHS had previously expected.

"This represents a major upgrade for the outlook compared to a year ago, when smartphones weren't expected to take the lead until 2015," Wayne Lam, senior analyst for wireless communications at IHS, said in a statement. "Over the past 12 months, smartphones have fallen in price, and a wider variety of models have become available, spurring sales of both low-end smartphones in regions like Asia-Pacific, as well as midrange to high-end phones in the United States and Europe. The solid expansion in both shipments and market share this year of smartphones will make them the leading type of mobile phone for the first time, and shipment growth in the double digits will continue for the next few years."

According to IHS, smartphone shipments as a share of the overall handset market will rise over the next several years, reaching 67.4 percent in 2016.

However, IHS's estimate on the current market differs from other research firms. Gartner, for instance, said smartphone sales accounted for 36.7 percent of all phone purchases in the second quarter of 2012. Gartner tracks handset sell-through to end customers as opposed to shipments into the retail channel.

Various research firms, including IDC, have said that China will eclipse--just barely--the United States as the world's largest smartphone market this year.

The smartphone market is also bifurcating into the midrange and high-end sectors, as IHS notes. Lower-end smartphones are finding favor in emerging markets, especially as a way for people to connect to the Internet for the first time. Low-end smartphone users will likely be first-time smartphone consumers, and will represent 43 percent of the total smartphone market by 2016, according to IHS.

For more:
- see this release

Special Report: Analyzing the world's 11 biggest handset makers in Q2 2012

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