At some point, we should see market saturation and then we'll just be seeing the replacement sales as phones break or are upgraded. Cell phones are showing remarkable penetration into emerging markets so the first time buyer sales numbers will slow down worldwide.
It's funny how one set of data can be interpreted in such different ways. Yes, the data shows that in aggregate, total sales of mobile phones declined by 1.7%. But the same data also shows that two of the top three -- Samsung & Apple -- had a banner year. Samsung's unit sales increased 22% over 2011 and Apple's increased a whopping 45.8%.
Since Samsung & Apple dominate in smartphones & tablets, the headline could just as well have read "Smartphones & tablets show record growth in 2012," which results in a much different (and more accurate) interpretation of the data than a headline that implies that the mobile market is declining.
I would love to see the equivalent table expressed in terms of sales dollars rather than sales of units.
"We are used to the idea that tablet computers and smartphones are driving semiconductor sales right now, but here is another statistic to put alongside the fall in desktop and notebook computer sales: worldwide mobile phones sales fell in 2012."
Obviously smartphone and tablets are still the driving force for semi industry. What probably declined is the sales of low-mid end phones, which is getting fast replaced by smartphones. Nokia's decline(with its huge presence in this sector) validates the point.