Smartphone Shipment Growth May Slow This Year, IDC Says

Tushar Agarwal March 31, 2011

Global sales of smartphones will probably increase at a slower pace this year, with Google Inc. (GOOG)’s Android likely to become the world’s best-selling smartphone system, according to International Data Corp.

Shipments of handsets that allow users to surf the Internet and download movies and music may gain 49 percent this year to more than 450 million units, the Framingham, Massachusetts-based researcher said in a report today. The rate lags the 74 percent growth last year when consumers made purchases they’d delayed during the recession.

Android, which is available on handsets from dozens of vendors including Samsung Electronics Corp. and HTC Corp. (2498), has built its market share in less than three years to challenge Nokia Oyj (NOK1V)’s Symbian as the market leader. Nokia, the biggest maker of mobile phones, said last month it will move to Microsoft Corp. (MSFT)’s Windows Phone 7 as its primary operating system in a transition that is expected to last through 2012.

“For vendors who made Android the cornerstone of their smartphone strategies, 2010 was the coming-out party,” IDC analyst Ramon Llamas said in the report. “This year will see a coronation party as these same vendors broaden and deepen their portfolios to reach more customers, particularly first-time smartphone users.”

Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 could be the second-largest operating platform behind Android by 2015 as it benefits from Nokia production capacity, IDC said today.

Android may have 39.5 percent of the smartphone market this year, passing Symbian’s share of 20.9 percent, IDC predicted. Symbian could fall to 0.2 percent in 2015, the researcher said. Windows Phone 7 and older Microsoft systems will run on 5.5 percent of units shipped this year, it said.

Android grew more than ninefold in 2010, according to Gartner Inc. research on unit sales to end users. The Google system had 22.7 percent of the smartphone market for the full year, compared with 37.6 percent for Symbian, Gartner said Feb. 2.

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