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Smartphone Market Growth Reaches a Turning Point

In developed markets, people who want a smartphone have one. And, the majority don't crave the new models. Demand for new devices still comes from the emerging markets that have yet to reach saturation. According to the latest global market study by International Data Corporation (IDC), 2015 will therefore likely be the last year of double-digit growth.

IDC reports that 1.44 billion smartphone were shipped worldwide in 2015, that's up by 10.4 percent over 2014. IDC forecasts 2016 shipments of 1.5 billion, or 5.7 percent growth over 2015. The trend of single-digit year-over-year growth is forecast with volumes growing to 1.92 billion in 2020.

Moreover, the global smartphone market will continue to see volumes shifting to the low-end, with the aggregate market average selling price (ASP) dropping from $295 in 2015 to $237 in 2020.

Mature markets such as the United States, China, and Western Europe have already reached single digit growth in 2015. Meanwhile, markets such as India, Indonesia, the Middle East and Africa, all remained in growth mode -- with some significant pockets of demand still to develop in Southeast Asia.

Apple is Greatly Impacted by Market Saturation

"The mature market slowdown has some grave consequences for Apple, as well as the high-end Android space, as these were the markets that absorbed the majority of the premium handsets that shipped over the past five years," said Ryan Reith, research program director at IDC. "I believe Apple's move into the trade-in business is aimed at further increasing churn in some of its most lucrative markets, despite the high penetration rates."

IDC analysts also believe that by entering this space, Apple can attempt to control the trade-in offerings, as well as monitor the demand for where these perfectly functioning 1-year old iPhones end up. The result, Apple should gain insight on the remaining pockets of demand, where buyers are much more price-sensitive.

With an abundance of new smartphones expected from all vendors in 2016, many will have larger screens. According to the IDC assessment, phablets were about 20 percent of all smartphone volume in 2015, and they're now forecast to reach 32 percent of the total market in 2020, or about 610 million device shipments.

Smartphone Platform Market Share

Android shipments will grow from 1.17 billion in 2015 to 1.62 billion in 2020 -- market share will grow from 81 percent to 85 percent. The biggest volume opportunity for Android smartphones is clearly within the low-cost space. Besides, in 2015 only 14 percent of Android shipments were $400 or greater.

iPhone shipments reached a new record of 231.5 million in 2015, with growth of 20.2 percent over 2014, which was nearly double the overall smartphone market. More importantly, Apple was able to grow its average sales price for the iPhone from $663 in 2014 to $713 in 2015.

Continuing its downward trajectory, Windows Phone shipments declined by 18 percent in 2015 to 11.1 million units, with roughly 95 percent of that volume coming from Microsoft (or Nokia) branded devices.

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