The smartphone war is far from over, but the battlegrounds are quickly shifting to Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRICs) and other emerging markets.
ABI Research said that China will replace the United States as the largest smartphone market in 2013. Brazil and India will be in the top four countries in smartphone shipments by 2018. Russia will be the 11th largest smartphone market in 2013 and reach No. 7 by 2018.
For all the duopoly talk with Google's Android and Apple's iOS in developed markets, there is plenty of room for another platform to emerge. Indeed, that's why Mozilla's Firefox OS is starting outside the U.S. and coming to emerging markets in short order. Emerging markets are another reason why it's hard to exclude BlackBerry, which does well in Asia Pacific by selling BlackBerry 7 units, from the smartphone race. Blackberry also fared well in Europe, Middle East and Africa. Meanwhile, Windows Phone could ride Nokia to emerging market growth to some degree. Nokia, however, is under pressure in China and is attacking its problems with its non-Windows Phone Asha devices to fend off Android.
According to ABI, the top five countries in 2018 will be 51 percent of global smartphone shipments and BRIC countries will be 33 percent of the market. By 2018, Western Europe and North America smartphone shipment share will be 33 percent too.
That forecast is why established vendors and current leaders are feeling the heat. For instance, Apple has been long rumored to be developing a low-cost iPhone. The company really has no choice. If Apple misses the low-cost curve it could lose in the emerging markets.
Another thing to note: Emerging market smartphone growth is going to crush prices. Average selling prices for smartphones are only gong to fall in the future. Smartphones are really just feature phones and dumb phones 2.0.