New flagship launches from Apple and Samsung are expected to propel smartphone sales to a gain, according to the latest data from research firm IDC.
The smartphone market has been at somewhat of a standstill for the last two years due to weak replacement cycles and low consumer demand. In 2016, the market experienced its first-ever single-digit growth year, with shipments up just 2.5 percent from the previous year.
Looking ahead, IDC expects shipments to grow from 1.47 billion in 2016 to just over 1.7 billion in 2021, representing growth of about 3.3 percent.
But in the short term, IDC said the high-end spectrum of the smartphone market will maintain steady growth, thanks to the new wave of larger screen phablets hitting the market, like the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 and Apple's upcoming iPhone 8. IDC expects devices with screens 5.5 inches and larger will grow more than 34 percent in 2017 across all operating systems.
"The large screen phenomenon shows no signs of slowing down as phablets will make up 40 percent of the smartphone market by the end of 2017," said IDC analyst Anthony Scarsella. "By 2021, phablets will control slightly over 51 percent of the market, proving that bigger is most often better to most consumers."
The story around operating system market share hasn't changed much over the last two years and this recent forecast doesn't call for much diversion. Android continues to dominate the global smartphone market, with an 85.3-percent share, which is up 2.3 percent from last year, while Apple's iOS operating system has a 14.6 percent share.
Shipments of iPhones were relatively flat this year at 1.5-percent growth, compared to the 7-percent decline it had in 2016. But the upcoming iPhone 8 launch will "spur a major upgrade cycle come 2018" and drive iPhone shipments up by 9.1 percent, according to IDC.
By 2021, IDC expects Apple to own 36 percent of the device market value, equaling roughly $180 billion. This is over half the value of all other Android OEMs combined and does not include revenue from services or its app ecosystem.