- Buyers Guide
Pat Hindle, MWJ Editor
China to become the largest market for smartphones this year
International Data Corp. (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker reported that smartphone shipments to emerging markets will drive growth in the worldwide smartphone market in the years ahead. According to the latest smartphone forecast, China will become the leading country-level market for smartphone shipments in 2012, moving ahead of the current leader, the United States. Looking ahead to 2016, two additional emerging markets, India and Brazil, will enter the top five country markets for smartphone shipments. Meanwhile, mature markets, such as Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States, will experience continued growth in smartphone adoption, but volumes will not keep up with those destined for emerging markets.
Due to the high growth of wireless activities in China, Microwave Journal launched Microwave Journal China magazine this year and a China web site will soon follow along with other China related activities so stay tuned.
Here are their specific country outlooks according to IDC:
After surpassing smartphone shipments in the U.S. for two consecutive quarters in the second half of 2011, China will carry that momentum into 2012 and beyond. "PRC smartphone shipments are expected to take a slim lead over the U.S. in 2012 before the gap widens in the coming years," said Wong Teck Zhung, senior market analyst with IDC's Asia/Pacific Client Devices team. "There will be no turning back this leadership changeover."
Android smartphones priced below US$200 were a hot segment in 2011 and these low-cost smartphones are expected to remain a key driver for smartphone growth, with prices becoming even more affordable on falling chipset prices and increased competition. "Emerging domestic vendors will be another important engine of smartphone growth as giants Huawei, ZTE, and Lenovo continue to ramp up with big carrier orders due to their willingness to produce customized handsets," added Teck Zhung. "International players such as Samsung and Nokia are also expected to drive volume at the low end with cheaper smartphones."
The Indian smartphone market will witness galloping growth throughout the forecast period. Carriers are expected to aggressively roll out 3G networks and data plans while domestic vendors such as Micromax, Spice, Karbonn and Lava have already launched low-cost smartphones in a bid to drive future demand as they attempt to move up the value chain from low-cost feature phones. In 2011, growth has been largely driven by top-tier brands like Samsung and HTC, and international vendors will look to invest further in local manufacturing in the coming years as the high-growth Indian market becomes a top priority.
"Demand for smartphones will also grow as urban and enterprise users mature in their handset preferences and usage," says G. Rajeev, senior market analyst for mobile devices with IDC India. "Consumers are growing accustomed to higher data usage and using handsets for entertainment and other content, instead of just as a communication device."
A booming economy combined with low inflationary pressures have helped lower the poverty rate in Brazil and improved the discretionary income of the Brazilian population. The resultant growth in Brazil's consumer and business segments has been felt in products beyond mobile phones, with Brazil moving past Japan in 2011 to become the third largest country-level market for PCs.
The shift from feature phones to smartphones is well underway in Brazil. Mobile phone subscribership has exceeded the country's population, smartphone prices have dropped to less than US$300, and carriers have introduced prepaid data plans. This last piece has been especially critical as four out of five mobile phone users in Brazil use prepaid phone lines. It has essentially opened up smartphones to a new world of customers that otherwise would not have been able to reap the benefits of smartphones.