Commentary

Smartphone Boom Far From Over, As 4G Blazes And Apple Cools

Despite worries about the smartphone market somehow peaking, the latest figures from Strategy Analytics show that the second quarter of 2013 actually saw the highest number of smartphone units ever shipped. The 229.6 million smartphones for the quarter was up 47% from the 156.5 million units in the second quarter of 2012. On a global basis, smartphones now account for 59% of all phones shipped. In the U.S. and other developed regions, growth continues to be driven by great demand for 4G models, while 3G models in emerging markets like India are driving growth there. 

For mobile marketers, the key takeaway is not overall smartphone growth so much as 4G growth. People like the speed, and this is going to translate into giving media and marketers a much wider palette of content for mobile phones. The top beneficiary, of course, will be video. Just as the Internet itself somewhere around 2005 started moving past those herky-jerky days when most people could expect a crappy experience when hitting the play button even in a broadband connection, mobile will too. It only takes a few video loads on your new 4G network to realize what an exponential leap in speed and responsiveness these networks are -- at least until they become clogged.

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Hand in hand with this growth, however, is the reality that Apple iOS simply may no longer be the default standard for development among media and marketers. Although Apple itself sold a record number of iPhones last quarter, this was not enough to keep pace with overall growth. Strategy Analytics pegs Apple iPhone growth at 20% annually, which is actually less than half the 47% of market growth for smartphones. The company saw its overall market share shrink to 14% or its lowest point since the middle of 2010. “The current iPhone portfolio is underperforming and Apple is at risk of being trapped in a pincer movement between rival 3-inch Android models at the low end and 5-inch Android models at the high-end,” says Neil Mawston, executive director, Strategy Analytics.

Samsung, on the other hand, saw its smartphone sales rise 56% -- well ahead of the market average -- and its market share hit 33%. Which is also to say that fragmentation across screen sizes, operating systems, and network speeds will be a persistent reality for developers of all kinds.

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