Smartphone volumes expected to rebound this year

Coming off the smartphone market's lowest year-over-year growth of 2.5% in 2016, a new forecast from the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker shows worldwide smartphone shipments rebounding in 2017 and beyond. 

While growth is expected to remain in the low single digits, the research group predicts shipment volumes to grow 4.2% in 2017 and 4.4% in 2018 with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.8% over the 2016-2021 forecast. Shipments are forecast to reach 1.53 billion units in 2017 and grow to 1.77 billion in 2021.

From a platform perspective, IDC doesn't expect much change throughout the forecast with Android accounting for roughly 85% of smartphone shipments and Apple making up the rest. The outlook for Microsoft-based smartphones remains virtually nonexistent given the lack of original equipment manufacture (OEM) partner support. Although Android growth will gradually decline, IDC doesn’t yet see a point where shipments will contract year over year given the demand for new features such as augmented and virtual reality. 

Regarding iOS, 2016 was the first time Apple experienced a year-over-year decline in shipments with iPhone volumes falling 7.0%. IDC expects a strong rebound in iPhone volumes in 2017 following the launch of its next set of devices with many rumored technical changes as well as a strong push for the 10th anniversary.

Apple continues to do roughly 50% of its iPhone volume between North America and Western Europe, but Asia/Pacific (excluding Japan) continues to grow as a share of Apple's volumes mainly driven by continuous demand in China. That region accounted for roughly 30% of 2016 iPhone shipments and is expected to grow to about 36% in 2021. As mentioned, IDC believes 2017 will be a turnaround year for iPhone volumes with shipments expected to grow 4.9% over 2016.