Worldwide smartphone shipments are expected to reach 1.45 billion units with a year-over-year growth rate of 0.6% in 2016 according to the latest forecast from the International Data Corporation (IDC) worldwide quarterly mobile phone tracker. Although growth remains positive, it is down significantly from the 10.4% growth in 2015.
4G smartphones are still expected to show double-digit uptake at 21.3% year-over-year growth globally for 2016, reaching 1.17 billion units, up from 967 million in 2015. Much of this growth is coming from emerging markets (Asia/Pacific excluding Japan, Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe, and Middle East and Africa), where only 61% of 2015 smartphone shipments were 4G-enabled compared to IDC's 2016 projection of 77%.
Melissa Chau, associate research director with IDC's worldwide quarterly mobile device trackers said: "It's been a long slog for 4G uptake in many emerging markets as 4G data tariffs have long been very expensive compared to 3G, while 4G handsets themselves have also been relatively pricey across the board."
Chau added:"We are quickly seeing this change in key growth markets like India where new operator Reliance Jio is aggressively trying to shake up the market by handing out free 4G SIM cards and launching own-branded low-cost 4G-enabled smartphones."
"As we approach the holiday quarter smartphone marketing has picked up significantly across almost all regions as expected," said Ryan Reith, program vice president with IDC's worldwide quarterly mobile device trackers. "In North America and Western Europe, Google has been putting a significant amount of marketing dollars behind the new Pixel and Pixel XL, although early supply chain indications are that volumes are not at the point where Samsung or Apple should see a significant impact for Q4. Of course, as we head into 2017 this can change, but many eyes will be on Google to see how serious they are about pursuing the hardware play."
According to IDC, Google's Android OS will remain the majority share platform in smartphones for the foreseeable future. While all signs point to 2016 being the first full year of declining shipments for Apple's iPhone, the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus have done well. 2017 marks the tenth year of iPhone, so it is hard to believe Apple doesn't have something big up its sleeve.
Microsoft's mobile platform remained largely a non-story in 2016 other than HP's reentry into the smartphone space with the X3 product. IDC projects Windows Phone shipments to decline 79.1% in 2016 as the number of OEMs supporting the platform continue to diminish.