Business | Technology

2 years for smartphones to overtake feature phone sales in region

Smartphones will end up holding 24% of the total sales in MEA this year

  • By Naushad K. Cherrayil, Staff Reporter
  • Published: 17:19 October 25, 2012
  • Gulf News

  • Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News
  • Visitors browse smartphones at the recent Gitex Shopper 2012. Over the past year, wider variety of models have become available, spurring sales of low-end smartphones.

Dubai: The last two years have seen smartphone sales log a phenomenal growth. The next two years could well see incremental sales of smartphone sales in the Middle East and Africa, if the numbers are any indication.

Though smartphones accounted for a mere 21 per cent of this pie as of second quarter in the region, fewer than 10 million units, they are seen setting a scorching pace.

Smartphones have overtaken feature phones in some parts of the world.

In the region, feature phones still reign as the more prevalent mobile phone type used by consumers.

“It will at least be two to three years for the smartphones to overtake feature phone sales in the Middle East and Africa region,” Annette Zimmermann, Principal Analyst (Consumer Technology &Markets) at Gartner, told Gulf News.

The year will end with smartphone sales holding around 24 per cent in the region. In Africa, feature phones are still the king.

“We are over 36 per cent smartphone sales globally and it is expected to touch 40 per cent in the fourth quarter,” she said.

By end of next year, smartphone sales may overtake feature phone sales globally.

According to Wayne Lam, senior analyst for wireless communications at HIS iSuppli, smartphones will account for 54 per cent of the total global handset market by end of next year, up from 46 per cent in 2012 and 35 per cent in 2011.

“This represents a major upgrade for the outlook compared to a year ago, when smartphones weren’t expected to take the lead until 2015,” Lam said.

Over the past 12 months, smartphones have fallen in price, and a wider variety of models have become available, spurring sales of both low-end smartphones.

According to Chris Jones, Canalys Vice-president and Principal Analyst, “total annual global shipments of smartphones exceeded those of client PCs [including pads] for the first time last year.

Total global shipments for the whole of 2011 stood at 487.7 million units, up 63 per cent on the 299.7 million smart phones shipped throughout 2010. By comparison, the global client PC market grew 15 per cent in 2011 to 414.6 million units, with 274 per cent growth in pad shipments. Pads accounted for 15 per cent of all client PC shipments in 2011.

In MEA, 45.5 million handsets were sold in second quarter of this year, out of which 9.5 million smartphones compared to 8.1 million smartphones in the first quarter of this year. Features phone sales stood at 36 million units in the second quarter.

According to IHS, smartphone shipments as a share of the overall handset market will rise over the next several years, reaching 67.4 per cent in 2016.

Various research firms, including IDC, have said that China will eclipse - just barely - the United States as the world’s largest smartphone market this year.

Lower-end smartphones are finding favour in emerging markets, especially as a way for people to connect to the internet for the first time. Low-end smartphone users will likely be first-time smartphone consumers, and will represent 43 per cent of the total smartphone market by 2016, according to IHS.

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