When you say it like the Dr. Evil character in the Austin Powers movies it sounds sinister, but an industry research firm predicts that global sales of smartphones running the Google Android operating system will hit the 1 billion unit sales mark in 2014.
Gartner research reports that unit sales of smartphones hit 758.7 million units in 2013 for a 78.4 percent share of the market, while a similar report from IDC – both released this week – puts the sales figure at 793.6 million units for a 78.6 percent share.
Either way you figure it, Android continues on a roll and the “1 beellion” mark looks easily attainable. Across all vendors and operating system platforms, total smartphone sales already topped the 1 billion mark last year.
The research also confirms a trend that industry watchers have anticipated for some time that 2013 was the year that smartphone sales finally surpassed those of feature phones, as consumers recognize the value of mobile devices that make calls, texts, offer e-mail and Web browsers and an abundance of applications to suit users’ unique needs. Gartner says sales of smartphones accounted for 53.6 percent of sales of all mobile phones this past year.
The two top smartphone OS vendors in 2013 remain Android, with the aforementioned 78.6 percent share, followed by Apple iOS with a 15.2 percent share. Microsoft Windows Phone, while its sales almost doubled in 2013 to 33.4 million units from 2012, registered only a 3.3 percent share. And the beleaguered BlackBerry OS sold 41 percent fewer units in 2013.
What makes the smartphone race interesting is the divergent go-to-market strategies of Android and Apple, said Ramon Llamas, research manager with IDC’s Mobile Phone research team.
“Android relied on its long list of OEM partners, a broad and deep collection of devices, and price points that appealed to nearly every market segment,” Llamas said. “Apple's iOS, on the other hand, relied on nearly the opposite approach: a limited selection of Apple-only devices whose prices trended higher than most. Despite these differences, both platforms found a warm reception to their respective user experiences and selection of mobile applications."
Gartner, meanwhile, sees two other trends driving smartphone sales this coming year – lower price points and faster sales growth in emerging markets around the world.
“Gartner anticipates that an increasing number of manufacturers will realign their portfolios to focus on the low-cost smartphone sector. Sales of high-end smartphones will slow as increasing sales of low- and mid-price smartphones in high-growth emerging markets will shift the product mix to lower-end devices,” it said in a news release. “This will lead to a decline in average selling price and a slowdown in revenue growth.”
That observation aligns with one from IDC “that the era of double-digit annual growth has only a few years remaining.”