IDC: Smartphones will finally surpass feature phone shipments in 2013

IDC: Smartphones will finally surpass feature phone shipments in 2013

Summary: 2013 is the year of the smartphone, according to a new report from the International Data Corporation.


The mobile industry is on the verge of a major inflection point, based on a new report from the International Data Corporation.

See also: Canalys predicts a billion Android smartphone sales in 2017, and rapid growth for Windows Phone

The market intelligence firm reported on Tuesday that global smartphone shipments are expected to reach approximately 958.8 million units.

That's a 32.7 percent increase from 722.5 million units in 2012.

More importantly, IDC analysts predicted that this will be the year that smartphones surpass feature phones in total cell phone shipments worldwide.

Specifically, analysts projected that smartphones will account for 52.2 percent of all mobile phone shipments by the end of 2013.

Ramon Llamas, a research manager on the IDC mobile phones team, emphasized the importance of this shift in the report, going so far to describe 2013 as a "watershed year for smartphones."

If you look at the number of vendors who support both feature phones and smartphones, many of them have not only successfully transitioned their product portfolios to highlight smartphones, but smartphones have become their primary value proposition going forward. In some cases, smartphones have accounted for well over 50% of their quarterly shipment volume. Looking ahead, we expect the gulf between smartphones and features phones to grow ever wider.

The IDC's report on Tuesday is reminiscent with another published by IHS iSuppli last November. That forecast concerned NAND flash memory usage in particular, signaling a major shift that will directly affect supply chain partners as soon as this year.

Nevertheless, Nielsen issued an industry survey in January 2013 positing that smartphones still have "room to grow" in several top emerging markets at least.

As of six months ago, Nielsen found that feature phones, which researchers defined as "devices with no touchscreen, QWERTY keypad or operating system" are far more dominant in India and Russia, covering 80 percent and 51 percent of mobile users, respectively.

Chart via IDC

Topics: Mobility, Android, iOS, Smartphones, Tech Industry

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Force feeding of smartphones is the reason why...

    Many of us [not Luddites, mind you] really only use a phone for it's original intended purpose, far off talking/voice [from the Greek]. We have other devices [laptops, desktops, etc.] and do not need a smart phone.

    However, since the feature phone choices are being artificially restricted, it is becoming a case of chicken and egg, where the snowball effect is causing feature phones to disappear from the market place.

    Purveyors of hardware like this as the profit margins are much higher with smartphones, and purveyors of service absolutely are wetting themselves over this, because they engineered it, and its fruition is bringing in record profits, based upon those access fees that are being charged per phone.
    • Re: However, since the feature phone choices are being artificially restric

      By whom? Everywhere in the world except the US, you can buy whatever phone you like from whatever source you like, and use it on whichever network you like.
  • What makes feature phones dumb?

    Rabid Howler Monkey
    • Re: What makes feature phones dumb?

      I think the fact that you cannot develop and install third-party apps on them, you're restricted to the capabilities built in by the platform vendor.