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September 16, 2014

What's Behind an Expected Shipment of 1.2 Billion Smartphones This Year?

Smartphones, in general, are starting to look a bit like a commodity. Most have a favorite already, a breed that will likely be kept to throughout the years as new versions emerge and refinements are made. But a new report from Juniper Research suggests that global smartphone shipments are about to see an impressive level this year, and what's behind the surge in shipments may prove surprising.

The Juniper Research report—titled “Smartphone Markets: Trends, Shares & Forecasts 2014-2019”—showed the total shipments for 2014 was set to hit a combined total of 1.2 billion. That's up fully 19 percent from 2013's total of 985 million, and the biggest cause of this gain is said to be the emerging market. More specifically, a huge new surge in both the ultra-economy and the low-cost economy smartphones is going to fuel this rise, with an array of smartphones costing under $150 hitting markets.

Naturally, the usual suspects in smartphones will still very much be in play. Apple and Samsung, for example, will be the vanguard in the ultra-premium market. The reports suggest that Apple and Samsung, between the two, will account for almost every second smartphone shipped this year, representing about 45 percent of total shipments. But even the dominance of this duo won't be unchallenged, particularly in those emerging markets. China, for example, is producing firms like Xiaomi, a company seeing some big gains in not only China, but also in India. Google recently put some help into this development itself, with its new Android One that offers a way to get a more unified, standardized experience readily into users' hands. Users no longer need to develop a smartphone from the ground up, but can simply use standard points to build a more common version, a development that's seen as particularly useful in terms of accessing the emerging markets.

However, Apple won't be left out of this concept either; Apple's new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are larger, and look more like phablets, a development that's been shown to be very welcome in emerging markets. Though not even the iPhone 6 Plus strictly qualifies as a phablet at 5.5 inches, it is having an unexpected effect in the field, potentially even changing the way people think about phablets.

There's a lot to consider in a market like this. How much of the world's tastes will bleed over into other, more established markets like the United States? Indeed, how much of the iPhone 6 Plus, which is almost a phablet in its own right, bringing the phablet to more established markets? Sure, there have been phablets before, but seeing Apple get into the market offers a note of credibility to the form factor that might not have been there without it. Samsung, meanwhile, has already made its own push into the phablet market, after a fashion, with the Galaxy Note line; how much of the iPhone 6 Plus is a response to that, and how much is it a response to the global interest in phablets? With the desktop and laptop market in something of a state of decline of late, will we see more making moves toward the smartphone and tablet field?

Many more smartphones will be hitting the market soon, and it's likely that many more will follow. What changes will arrive in the market is a matter only time will decide, but the key point here is to expect change in the field...because it's coming.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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