For the first time, the number of certified wireless modules overtakes smartphones, consolidating the use of 5G, LTE and Cellular IoT for many different applications and verticals.

The Global Certification Forum (GCF) published its Mobile Device Trends February 2024 report, which includes an analysis of the 503 wireless devices certified by GCF in 2023. These devices came from 96 manufacturers around the world, a record number.

For the first time, this year’s report shows that in 2023 wireless modules were the category with the most certified devices. With modules being nearly 36 percent of all devices being certified, they have now overtaken smartphones, which represented 33 percent of certified devices.

In 2023, 38 percent of all devices and 60,5 percent of all smartphones integrated 5G technology, with 5G standalone (SA) operation supported by over 96 percent of 5G devices. The number of smartphones certified dropped, which follows an industry decline in total smartphone sales. The decrease is also due to a consolidation of the smartphone portfolios: the lower cost of including 5G functionality led vendors to abandon the need of separate LTE and 5G variants, which had been a trend in previous years.

LTE was the most used wireless standard in devices certified by GCF in 2023, with 90 percent of all devices supporting it. An additional 36 devices incorporated LTE Cat. M1 – which (along with NB-IoT) was one of the two standards dominating Cellular IoT device certifications.

Legacy technologies, 3G and GSM continue to decline in certification numbers. GSM is proving more resilient than 3G, as it is retained as a backup technology for voice, emergency and M2M services. This aligns with the trend of more operators launching 5G services and more frequency bands (new or re-farmed from previous generations) being used for these services.

By combining conformance and interoperability tests undertaken in laboratories with field trials on multiple commercial networks, GCF certification verifies the quality of the interoperability of mobile phones and other wireless devices with different network elements, vendors’ infrastructure and other services. GCF certifies hundreds of different device models each year and the analysis of GCF’s certification listings provides insight into current trends within the mobile device market.

GCF’s Mobile Device Trends report contains detailed figures and analysis on a wide range of emerging and legacy technologies certified in devices including 5G, LTE, cellular IoT, eSIM, 3G and GSM. The report also looks at some likely trends into 2024.