The market for smartphones was 712 million units in 2012 and is set to be about 897 million units in 2013 according to market analysis firm IHS Inc. By 2017 the annual market will have doubled to about 1.5 billion units, representing a compound annual growth rate of 15.8 percent over the period.
The detailed progress is shown in the chart below, with smartphone shipments at 1.1 billion units in 2014, 1.2 billion in 2015, and 1.4 billion in 2016. However while a number of established and newcomer vendors are set to profit from this growth, Apple, the firm that invented the smartphone, could be about to miss out.
Global smartphone unit shipment forecast 2012 to 2017 in billions of units.
In a press release IHS said: "Apple's iPhone franchise appears to be stalling as first-quarter shipments of 37.4 million fell below expectations."
The company predicts that Apple may ship 150 million iPhones in 2013, compared with 134 million units in 2012. While that would represent about 12 percent year-on-year growth it would be a long way behind the total smartphone market growth that IHS is forecasting, of 26 percent, and would imply a loss of market share for Apple.
"The possible slowing growth of the iPhone and the rapid pace of competitive smartphone releases speaks to the ferocious nature of the handset business, especially now as the market continues to pivot from a market dominated by lower-end handsets known as feature phones to one that is increasingly smartphone-centric," said Wayne Lam, a senior analyst at IHS, in the statement.
Brands that could be buoyed this year by recent flagship launches include BlackBerry, HTC, and Samsung. Chinese brands Coolpad and Gionee outshipped HTC and Motorola in the first quarter, while Apple's next iPhone model is not expected until the second half of 2013 and may have limited impact on full-year sales.
The competitive pressure will result in a round of innovation in areas of audio and display to support more immersive multimedia user experience and a greater variation in smartphone designs, said Lam.