Saturation in mature markets will see smartphone growth slow significantly this year and hit single digits by 2017.
A new IDC forecast predicts the increase in global smartphone shipments will fall to 19.3% in 2014 from 38.4% last year, dropping to 8.3% in three years and 6.2% in 2018.
After smartphone shipments reached the 1 billion mark for the first time in 2013, they'll increase to 1.2 billion this year.
Growth in emerging markets driven by lower-cost models won’t be enough to compensate for the slowdown in developed countries awash in iPhones and high-end Android devices.
"2014 will be an enormous transition year for the smartphone market. Not only will growth decline more than ever before, but the driving forces behind smartphone adoption are changing,” stated Ryan Reith, program director of IDC’s mobile phone tracking unit.
That means manufacturers are increasingly hawking cheaper smartphones in less developed regions to help offset the declining demand in their core markets.
The worldwide smartphone average selling price of $335 in 2013 is expected to drop to $260 by 2018.
"Last year, we saw a total of 322.5 million smartphone units ship for under $150 and that number will continue to grow going forward,” stated Ramon Llamas, an IDC research manager covering the mobile industry. That shift was underscored this week, with browser maker Mozilla announcing plans to introduce a $25 smartphone aimed at users in the developing world.
IDC expects Android to remain dominant among operating systems, with a strong presence in emerging markets and a range of phones at affordable prices. The Google platform is projected to end 2014 with nearly 80% market share worldwide.
Apple’s iOS will continue to be the clear No. 2, keeping a tight focus on the high-end market that could cost it from realizing greater gains in new markets. Among the top platforms, Windows Phone will see the fastest growth, building on its Nokia relationship and adding nine new hardware partners to push into emerging markets.
The Microsoft platform will claim just 3% market share in 2014.