Forward Concepts has announced the publication of its newest in-depth annual study of the worldwide cellular handset and tablet market and virtually all of the chips that go into them. The extensive (654-page) study, “Cellular Handset & Tablet Chip Markets '12,” gauges the performance of the top 30 handset vendors, cellular-enabled tablet vendors and ranks their 2011 annual growths and market shares.

Although cellphone and cellular-enabled tablet vendors and their respective market performances are covered in detail, the company believe its coverage of chips that enable them is without equal.

Importantly, the study estimates 2011 market shares of chip vendors and forecasts virtually every chip type in units, average selling price and revenuethrough 2016. Market metrics are the central focus of the study, and some key findings include:

  • Among the top 10 cellphone vendors, Nokia, Samsung and Apple topped 2011 unit shipments. Chinese suppliers Huawei, ZTE and TCL moved into the top ten. In revenue, however, Apple led over Samsung and Nokia. Forward Concept expects Samsung to pass Nokia in smartphone shipments in 2012, taking the 2nd position behind Apple.
  • Global cellular handset shipments grew 6.5% in 2011 to 1.51 billion units compared with 12% growth in 2010. Forward Concept predicts a stronger 2012 unit growth of 11%. Smartphones, however, will continue to do better, growing a predicted 17% to the 502 million unit level this year.
  • As Smartphones continue taking an increasing share of the handset market, so-called feature phones will grow only by 1.6% in 2012, because smartphone prices have become more attractive.
  • Cellular-enabled tablets are expected to grow 40% to 95 million units this year.

Excluding memory and displays, which are significant portions of handset cost, the cellphone component marketis forecast to grow 16% this year to the $55 billion level.

Although Baseband chipsof several types constitute the largest non-memory cellphone chip market at $15.9 billion for 2011, there are other multi-billion-dollar cellphone chip markets, including $5.5 billion for power management units, $3.7 billion for RF transceivers, $3.6 billion for RF power amplifiers, $2.9 billion for image sensors, $2.8 billion for standalone application processors, and $2.7 billion for touch-screen controllers. 

Other cellular chips in the billion-dollar-plus class include those for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and fast-growing MEMS & sensors. Of course, GPS and AM/FM radio are also significant peripheral chips. Moreover, the wireless peripheral "combo" radio devices consisting of Wi-Fi, FM/AM, Bluetooth, GPS and NFC (though not yet integrated) together now constitute a growing share of the cellphone component market.

The growth in sensors has been phenominalas gyro revenues exceeded the accelerometers for the first time. Accelerometers are at the 100% penetration level in Smartphones and tablets. In 2011, Gyros became the second largest MEMS market after silicon accustical microphones.

By 2016, MEMS devices will be the largest peripheral segment surpassing touch controllers, image sensors and the combination WLAN (Wi-Fi, BT, FM & GPS) chips.

Although NFC (Near Field Communications) chips in cellular terminals reached 71 million units in 2011, Forward Concept predicts 83% unit growth in 2012. Although popular in Japan for contactless payments, the market is just catching on in Europe and the U.S. However, Forward Concept wonders how many of those new NFC chips will be actually used this year.

According to the principal author, Carter L. Horney, "Qualcomm retains the leadership position in cellphone chips of all types, but Intel, MediaTek, Broadcom and Spreadtrum are major contenders." 

Will Strauss, Forward Concepts’ president and editor of the report, said, "We are confident that this study provides the most comprehensive coverage of cellular handset and tablet chip markets available."

Details of the new report are at