According to new data from the International Data Corporation, smartphone shipments are expected to grow 10.4% in 2015 to 1.44 billion units. This is lower than IDC's previous smartphone forecast of 11.3% year-over-year growth in 2015.
IDC expects to see a noticeable slowdown in smartphone shipments in 2015 as China joins North America and Western Europe in a more mature growth pattern. However, steadily falling average selling prices (ASPs) will fuel steady growth through the end of the forecast period, with global shipments reaching 1.9 billion units in 2019, according to the research group.
China remains the focal point of the global smartphone market in 2015, although the results haven't been as positive as in previous years. As the largest market for smartphones – China consumed 32.3% of all new smartphone shipments in 2014 – its importance remains great even if its growth has begun to slow, notes IDC.
Shipments are forecast to grow just 1.2% year over year in 2015, which is down from 19.7% in 2014. China will remain the largest market for smartphone volumes throughout the forecast period. However, its share of the overall market is expected to drop to 23.1% in 2019 as high-growth markets like India continue to expand.
Despite Apple's continued success with its variants of the iPhone, the story among operating systems isn't expected to change throughout the forecast, with Android's 81% share in 2015 carrying forward until 2019, predicts IDC. Markets with the biggest growth opportunity are extremely price sensitive, which the research group doesn't feel will change.
This is the main reason Apple will be challenged to take Android share throughout the forecast, says the research group. Even if Apple were to introduce a low-cost iPhone — the rumored "iPhone 6c" — IDC believes the price will struggle to compete with Android devices that are focused on portfolios aimed at price points of US$200 and less.
This isn't to suggest that Apple's success with the iPhone won't continue, and IDC believes its efforts to maintain significantly higher margins compared to its competitors are much more valuable than chasing share. The research group forecasts that Android shipments globally are expected to grow from 1.06 billion in 2014 to 1.54 billion in 2019, while iOS shipments will grow from 192.7 million in 2014 to 269.6 million in 2019.
IDC's view that Microsoft/Windows Phone will remain a marginal challenger at best hasn't changed. On the device front, "phablets" (smartphones with 5.5"-7" screens) will continue to drive shipment volumes in both emerging and developed markets.
"Since Apple finally delivered a larger screen smartphone with the iPhone 6+, the demand for large screened devices among consumers has been at a record high," says Anthony Scarsella, research manager with IDC’s Mobile Phones team. "Smartphones featuring display sizes from 5.5 inches to 6 inches are forecast to grow 84% in 2015 compared to last year, while phablets overall will make up over 71% of shipments by 2019."