Smartphones to overtake feature phones globally within the next two years

Smartphones to overtake feature phones globally within the next two years

Smartphones have already reached the 50 percent ownership tipping point in the US and in a number of European countries including Spain and Italy but by 2014 the handsets are expected to account for more than half of all phones shipped and sold globally. And, according to the latest market forecasts from ABI Research, by 2018 smartphones will represent 69 percent of the global mobile phone market (2.4 billion handsets) and 4G LTE handsets will have gone mainstream, hitting 35 percent global penetration.

LTE handsets already taking off

ABI highlights that the technology features in the latest smartphones -- 4G LTE handsets -- are already proving extremely popular in a number of markets despite the fact that with the exception of North America and the Asia Pacific region, very few countries are yet to establish their own high-speed mobile internet networks (for example the UK's first 4GLTE network only went live in November 2012 and is yet to offer nationwide coverage).

"With the successful launch of the iPhone 5 and competing LTE handsets from other leading OEMs, LTE handsets will be found in the hands of many consumers who do not even have access to LTE networks," said ABI senior practice director Jeff Orr. "Apple is demonstrating to the market that LTE is not the only reason to buy a premium handset."

Samsung to be technology trendsetter

However, ABI also believes that despite being an LTE trendsetter, Apple's popularity is on the wane and that its global market share is expected to peak in 2013 at 22 percent, where it will stay for the next five years. Meanwhile, Samsung will retain and reinforce its position as the world's leading smartphone and feature phone maker. "Barring an unlikely collapse in Samsung's business, even Apple will be chasing Samsung's technology, software, and device leadership in 2013 through the foreseeable future," says senior analyst Michael Morgan.

Since 2010 Samsung has grown its smartphone market share from 8 percent to over 30 percent in 2012 and the company shows no rate of slowing down. And as Samsung becomes more powerful, the emphasis it places on different operating systems could have a huge effect on future mobile trends. Currently, 90 percent of Samsung's smartphone sales come from Android handsets but the company also makes Windows Phone handsets. What's more it has its own OS, Bada, which is used on its entry-level handsets in emerging markets and is also a partner in Tizen, a Linux-based OS that could one day challenge both Android and Apple's iOS.