The firm views the worldwide economic downturn as actually helping smartphone sales by forcing mobile operators and other companies to focus on devices aimed at the low- and high-end segments. The result is mobile users accelerating the replacement of mid-tier 2G phones with 3G models.
Smartphone sales in the first quarter alone surpassed 36.4 million units -- a 12.7% increase from a year ago, according to recent data from Gartner. That compares to an 8.6% overall drop in mobile phone sales.
Ovum credits Apple's success with the iPhone and its App Store with helping competitors to focus on devices that allow developers to bring an array of new applications and services to mobile devices. The ripple effect is reflected in Research In Motion, Google, Microsoft and others launching their own mobile app stores this year.
Over the next five years, these factors will drive average annual growth of 19.5% and shipments of 406.7 million by 2014. By then, smartphones will account for 29% of the mobile phone market. But phones running on the Symbian operating system -- including most Nokia phones -- will lose market share as competing platforms such as Google's Android gain ground.
By 2014, Ovum expects Symbian to drop from 58% to 43% of the market, while Android will over take Windows Mobile to grab an 18% share, shipping 72 million handsets in five years. In the coming years, the firm says the key distinction will be "managed" versus "unmanaged" smartphones. Managed device platforms "deliver a tightly integrated end-to-end service proposition including content and applications directly to consumers pioneered by Apple and Google." The adoption of this model by Nokia, Microsoft and Sony will drive sales of smartphone tied to their systems. "Unmanaged smartphones will still have a place in the market," according to Ovum. "However, they will appeal mainly to users who do not wish to be tied to a particular vendor's offering or are content with a more basic service package." As a result, these type of phones will have a shrinking user base in the next five years.