Smartphone shipments surge as prices drop

More smartphones to ship in 2013 than other mobile 'feature' phones

More smartphones will ship worldwide in 2013 than other so-called mobile "feature" phones as the average price of smartphones drops, IDC said Tuesday.

The average price of smartphone declined by 8% globally in 2012 and is projected to fall another 9% in 2013, IDC analyst Ryan Reith said.

Meanwhile, smartphones will make up 52.2% of all mobile phones shipped in 2013, while the smartphone market is projected to grow by 33% annually, IDC said.

In 2013, 958.8 million smartphones will ship, up 32.7% from the 722.5 million shipped in 2012, IDC said. "2013 will mark a watershed year for smartphones," said Ramon Llamas, an IDC analyst.

The gulf between smartphones and feature phones will grow even wider in coming years, as vendors find ways to lower production costs. One way vendors cut costs is by using older radio components that run on 3G, rather than 4G.

In some emerging markets, 3G is considered "good enough" for users, IDG said. The 3G devices will account for 71% of all smartphones shipped in 2013, and will still make up 50% of the market in 2017.

Nearly two-thirds of all smartphones shipped in 2013 will go to emerging markets, up from 43% in 2010, IDC said.

"Smartphones have become increasingly common in emerging markets and it is often the first affordable means of computing for these markets," Reith said. Average personal income is far lower than in developed countries, forcing vendors "to create smartphone computing experiences for the low end of the market."

Average prices for smartphones in 2013 will be $372, down from $407 in 2012 and $443 in 2011. The average selling price for a smartphone could be as low as $309 in 2017, IDC said.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed . His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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