FRAMINGHAM, MA – Worldwide smartphone shipments are expected to grow from 1.47 billion in 2016 to just over 1.7 billion in 2021, says International Data Corp.

In 2016, the market experienced its first-ever single-digit growth year, with shipments up 2.5% over 2015. IDC believes the combination of new user demand, as well as a somewhat stagnant two-year replacement cycle will be enough to keep the market at a five-year CAGR of 3.3%.

"The big inflection point that everyone is watching for is when the smartphone market experiences its first year-over-year decline," said Ryan Reith, program vice president with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Device Trackers. "We believe the two main catalysts for continued growth are bringing first-time users onto a smartphone and maintaining lifecycles that are close to two years. At the end of 2016, we estimated about half of the world's population was using a smartphone, which leaves plenty of room for additional first-time users. And despite very high saturation levels in mature markets like North America, Western Europe, Korea, and Japan, we still see the majority of users replacing their handsets roughly every two years. We expect these trends will hold through the forecast."

The story around operating system market share hasn't changed much in the past couple years, and this recent forecast doesn’t call for much change, says the firm. Apple has generally held 14-15% share and Android 85% with the bits and pieces spread across a few dying platforms. When analyzing this by market value based on nonsubsidized device retail pricing, the story is quite different. By 2021, IDC expects Apple to own 36% of the device market value, equaling roughly $180 billion. This is over half the combined value of all other Android OEMs combined and does not include revenue from services or its app ecosystem.

"The high-end spectrum of the smartphone market shows no signs of slowing down, as we expect the average selling price of a smartphone to increase over 7% in 2017," said Anthony Scarsella, research manager with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker. "Premium phablet offerings from a variety of vendors look to be the main driving force behind the growth of devices with screens 5.5" and larger, which are set to grow over 34% in 2017 across all operating systems. The average selling price of these devices is also expected to increase 9% as we await the arrival of ultra-premium devices such as the iPhone 8, Note 8, V30, Essential Phone, and the second-generation Pixel. The large screen phenomenon shows no signs of slowing down, as phablets will make up 40% of the smartphone market by the end of 2017. By 2021, phablets will control slightly over 51% of the market, proving that bigger is most often better to most consumers."

Android OS continues to dominate on a global level, and IDC expects shipments on the platform to slightly outperform the market, with 2.3% year-over-year growth in 2017. In terms of volume, Asia/Pacific (excluding Japan) continues to lead the way, consuming nearly 55% of shipments throughout the forecast period. Growth at the high end from brands such as OPPO, Vivo, and Huawei have also led to a 17% increase in average selling price within the region, showing the high end has more room to grow. Android ASP's have also risen in other big markets like Latin America, the United States, and Western Europe. With many brands opting to push premium phablet offerings to combat the likes of the larger iPhone, devices with screen sizes larger than 5.5" should grow 34.5% year-over-year in 2017, with ASPs growing 9.2% as a result.

Apple is expected to demonstrate nominal 1.5% year-over-year growth in 2017, despite the steadily growing hype around the September iPhone launch. This is a considerable improvement from the 7% decline in iPhone shipments in 2016. From there, things only get better for Apple, as IDC anticipates the arrival of the iPhone 8 will spur a major upgrade cycle come 2018. Despite the new device launching later this year, IDC expects a majority of the shipments are likely to land early in 2018. IDC projects 9.1% growth in 2018, with the iPhone 8 and the new 7S/7S+ models playing a pivotal part in the near double-digit growth next year.

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