iSuppli: Great Growth Expected in Low-end Smartphones

Carl Weinschenk
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Seven Sexy Smartphones

This latest batch of smartphones calls attention to glasses-free 3D technology, front- and rear-facing cameras and Snapdragon processors.

There is a lot happening in the mobile operating system sector, of course, and there are many consultancies and other experts following events. It's easy, therefore, to get lost in the minutia of small market share shifts and lose sight of the more important big-picture trends.

The big trends include the dominance and growth of Android, the robust and growing second place standing of iOS, the struggles of BlackBerry and the crossroads being approached by Windows Phone. Indeed, these realities were validated, yet again, by a survey released last week by NPD Group.

But perhaps the biggest of the big picture items - the one that is changing corporate communications at the most basic level - is the ascendency of the smartphone itself.

While it certainly is clear on an intuitive level that smartphones are the growth area of mobile devices, real numbers still are welcome. iSuppli says that the crossover point between smart and feature devices will occur in 2015, when growth at the low end will drive smartphone shipments to 54.4 percent of smartphones.

The raw numbers: That year, iSuppli says, growth will more than double smartphone deployments, from 478 million this year to 1.03 billion in 2015. The press release, which offers an interesting graphic, points out that the lion's share of the expansion will be at the low end: Low-end smartphones will have a compound annual growth rate of 115.4 percent from last year to 2015, while mid-range to high-end phones will only grow at 16.4 percent.

It is interesting to note that Samsung's often-overlooked Bada operating system also is in the game. GigaOM and other sites report that the handset maker has released three devices based on the operating system. Writer Kevin Tofel says that the handsets use Bada 2.0, which "looks similar to Samsung's customization of Google Android."

In addition to the continued transition to a smarphone environment, it will be interesting to see what impact the emergence of the tablet has on the evolution of the smartphone sector. How will Apple, Android vendors and the others go about the long-term task of developing OSes that adequately support both smartphones and tablets?

This is an especially important question if, as iSuppli suggests, the greatest smartphone growth will be at the low end, since a more limited OS isn't optimal for the demands of a tablet. In other words, the difference between an OS bound for a lower-end smartphone and a tablet will be incidental. How Google, Apple and the rest deal with this dichotomy will be a key competitive issue going forward.

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