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Analyst sees smartphone market doubling in 2006

Feb 28, 2006 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive

Smartphones will advance beyond early adopters and into the mainstream in 2006, doubling their shipment volumes to around 123 million units, and attaining 15 percent of the worldwide mobile phone market, ABI Research forecasts. Additionally, while Symbian continues to be the market leader, Linux and Windows Mobile are gaining ground, the analyst firm says.

ABI Senior Analyst Philip Solis identifies five specific factors behind growing smartphone momentum:

  • Increasing demand for data communications applications, especially mobile email and instant messaging running at 3G speeds
  • Prices are dropping fast in response to increased sales volume
  • The range of available models is growing rapidly, with 39 percent more models available in 2005 than in 2004
  • Device size is decreasing, even as capabilities increase. This leads to lower power consumption and longer battery life
  • WiFi is finding its way into smartphones; ABI expects fully a quarter of all models to be WiFi-enabled by 2010

ABI's report also suggests that “the shifting tides of OS adoption” will be a significant factor in how the market shapes up. The report notes that “Linux is finding increasing favor, with industry heavyweights such as Motorola, Samsung, NEC, and Panasonic,” while Windows is also gaining marketshare.

Solis says, “Symbian, whose OS is currently the hands-down market share winner, is attempting to stave off competitors by halving its license fees for volume deals.”

Other analysts' findings

Recent research from several other analysts generally backs up ABI's findings. In January, In-Stat reported that the smartphone market grew over 70 percent in 2005, and predicted that the market will continue to grow significantly during the next five years. At the same time, In-Stat warned that smartphones risk being perceived as “very expensive feature phones” if users don't download the applications required to make the devices more useful than lower-priced alternatives.

Another research firm, Strategy Analytics, last fall provided LinuxDevices with a chart showing its projections for growth in the smartphone and feature phone market segments.

Regarding vendor OS shares, most analysts have concurred with ABI's observation that smartphone OS leader Symbian is facing increased pressure from Windows Mobile and Linux. A report from The Diffusion Group (TDG) for example, projected that Windows Mobile would lead the smartphone market by 2010 with a 29 percent share, followed by 26 percent for Linux, and 22 percent for Symbian.

As far as which challenger — Windows Mobile or Linux — will end up on top, the predictions are mixed, possibly due to what's being counted. Analysts are divided on whether to include phone-enabled PDAs, such as those powered by Microsoft's Windows Mobile “Pocket PC Phone” software. Gartner does not, and sees Linux trouncing Windows. IDG on the other hand, which does include phone-enabled PDAs, reported Linux trails Windows in its most recent report.

Study availability

ABI's study, Smartphones: The Next Phase of Worldwide Adoption, examines the smartphone as an extension of the PC, the Internet, and the corporate intranet in combining communications and computing. The study is part of the firm's “Mobile Devices Research Service,” which includes a number of research reports, regular market updates, forecast and industry databases, ABI Insights and analyst inquiry assistance.

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