NPD: Smartphone shipments to cross 1B in 2016

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Annual smartphone shipments around the globe are expected to nearly double by 2016 to reach more than 1 billion, according to a new report from NPD DisplaySearch, a unit of research firm NPD Group.

According to the report, smartphone shipments will total 567 million in 2012, up from slightly fewer than 500 million in 2011. By 2016 that figure is expected to cross 1 billion, driven overwhelmingly by consumers upgrading to newer smartphones.

NPD predicts that Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone 5, expected to be unveiled today, will help spur smartphone sales for the remainder of 2012. Despite that, NPD downgraded its 2012 forecast of new smartphones purchases from 220-230 million to 177 million.

Over the next several years, replacement smartphone sales are expected to increase as the share of new smartphone sales declines, NPD said. "The timing of mobile phone contracts can also impact the smartphone market," Hiroshi Hayase, vice president of small/medium displays for NPD DisplaySearch, said in a statement. "More service providers are likely to shorten mobile phone replacement cycles in an effort to boost sales."

The NPD forecast is slightly more bullish than some other recent ones on smartphone growth from analyst firms. In February Forrester Research predicted that in 2016 there will be a cumulative one billion consumers using smartphones. In August IHS iSuppli forecasted that by 2016 there will be 700 million mid-range to high-end smartphone users, with hundreds of millions more low-end smartphone users.

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