Canalys: Mobile device market to topple 2.6 billion units by 2016

Another day, another prediction about just how many billions of mobile devices there will be worldwide within a few short years.

If there's one thing that researchers and analysts following the mobile industry can agree upon, it's that there will be billions of connected (if not just mobile) devices on this planet within the next few years.

The latest forecast comes courtesy of Canalys, which issued a report on Friday that the mobile device shipments will surpass 2.6 billion units globally by 2016.

Tablets are actually expected to be more disruptive as the fastest-growing category with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 35 percent. Smartphones are predicted to follow with a CAGR of 18 percent.

Unfortunately for makers and fans of featurephones, that category is expected to go on the decline, starting this year -- as will laptops.

Still, the mobile device market is projected to grow overall annually by at least eight percent.

Looking closer at the operating systems, Android is scheduled to peak this year with 71 percent, but it should still be doing alright with a forecast of 66 percent of the market in 2016.

In 2012, Android accounted for 68 percent of shipments worldwide, according to Canalys, followed by iOS at 20 percent and BlackBerry with just five percent.

Nevertheless, in the report, Canalys vice president and principal analyst Chris Jones still seemed optimistic about the company formerly known as Research In Motion:

Just three years ago BlackBerry had more than 20% of the global smart phone market. While Canalys does not expect BlackBerry to return to that high in the coming years, it does have an opportunity to win back some of the lost customers, especially those that miss the BlackBerry keyboard. However, for it to achieve this, the new operating system must filter down through its portfolio in the next year

Windows Phone is also not to be counted out, added Canalys principal analyst Pete Cunningham, who wrote that while Microsoft's mobile OS "had a stop-start year in 2012," that's likely to change in the next few years.

The lack of forward compatibility from Windows Phone 7.x to Windows Phone 8 slowed its momentum. The launch of Windows 8 will help Windows Phone in the coming years: consumer familiarity with the Live Tiles UI will rise; the cost of Windows 8 PCs will fall; and enterprise adoption of Windows 8 will increase. Nokia has its sights set on delivering devices to price-conscious consumers, but also needs to maintain momentum at the high end. Microsoft itself needs support and a steady stream of Windows Phone smart phones from more handset vendors to succeed.