1B smartphones to ship in 2015, IDC says

As millions seek out powerful smartphones, annual number sold expected to double in four years

Nearly 1 billion smartphones will be shipped globally in 2015, almost double the amount for all of 2011, as millions of people seek out the more powerful mobile phones that are dropping in price, market research firm IDC said.

"The smartphone floodgates are open wide," IDC analyst Kevin Restivo said in a statement today.

The IDC forecast puts Android smartphones from several manufacturers on top from 2011 throughout 2015, with nearly 44% of the global smartphone market in 2015, up from 39% in 2011. Android first hit the top position globally in the fourth quarter of 2010, IDC noted.

In 2015, Windows Phone is expected to be in second place with a 20% share, growing from less than 4% in 2011.

IDC ranked the Apple iOS used in the iPhone in third place by 2015, with nearly 17% market share, down from 18% in 2011. BlackBerry will be fourth in 2015 at 13%, down from 14% in 2011.

Symbian drops out of the picture by 2015, down from its 20% share in 2011. Microsoft has partnered with Symbian maker Nokia on the Windows Phone OS, which will supplant Symbian in later years, IDC said.

The predictions of Windows Phones' ascendancy raised some eyebrows when IDC first made that prediction, but Gartner also shared that view. Both analyst firms have noted that Nokia has superior manufacturing and distribution capability, and is expected to produce its first Windows Phones on the Mango version of the OS late in 2011.

While both the iPhone and the BlackBerry will see a modest shrinkage in market share in the next four years, IDC noted that both will still see growth in shipments and sales coinciding with the explosive growth in smartphones.

In 2011 alone, vendors will ship about 472 million smartphones, about 55% above the 305 million shipped globally in 2010. IDC said 982 million smartphones will ship in 2015.

Smartphone growth is being fueled by falling average selling prices, increased phone functionality and lower cost data plans, IDC said. Many of the most powerful smartphones in the U.S. market are selling for $250 to $300, well below prices in the $300 to $400 range of two years ago.

Some smartphones released this year have new features such as video chat and more powerful 1.2 GHz dual-core processors that can enable faster real-time multiplayer game play and video replay in high definition.

IDC is owned by IDG, the parent company of Computerworld.

Worldwide Smartphone Market Share and Growth Rates

Operating System 2011 Market Share 2015 Market Share 2011-2015 Unit Growth
Android 38.9% 43.8% 23.7%
BlackBerry OS 14.2% 13.4% 18.3%
Symbian 20.6% 0.1% -68.8%
iOS 18.2% 16.9% 17.9%
Windows Phone 7/Windows Mobile 3.8% 20.3% 82.3%
Others 4.3% 5.5% 27.6%
Total 100.0% 100.0% 20.1%

Growth is calculated as compound annual growth rate in units.

Source: IDC Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, June 9, 2011.

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 e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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