Hardware sales still keeping head above water thanks to mobile - but for how long?

Sales of smartphones and other mobiles are keeping the devices market in growth territory - but only just.

Consumers are buying fewer computing devices of all types, with mobile the only exception.

Worldwide device shipments will reach 2.5 billion in 2015, up 1.5 percent on last year, according to research from analysts Gartner. The modest growth comes thanks to rising mobile phone shipments, which is the biggest category of devices and the only one showing growth, the research found.

Gartner has cut its forecast for worldwide shipments by 1.3 percentage points, citing the strong US dollar and rising PC prices, which are hitting spending in Western Europe, Russia, and Japan.

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Thanks partly to the US dollar, worldwide spending on devices will decline 5.7 percent in 2015 to $606bn - the first time the market has seen a decline of that size since 2010.

Shipments of PCs will reach 300 million this year, down 4.5 percent compared to 2014, with the end of Windows XP migrations hampering PC sales in the first half of this year. Gartner doesn't expect the PC market to recover until 2016, potentially boosted by the arrival of Windows 10 later this year.

The news is no better for tablets and clamshells, with sales expected to total 214 million units in 2015, down 5.3 percent year on year. Tablets sales will fall 5.9 percent year on year to 207 million units.

"The tablet market is hit by fewer new buyers, extended life cycles, and little innovation to encourage new purchases," said Roberta Cozza, research director at Gartner. "At the same time, the value of a smartwatch for the average user is still not compelling enough and the impact of these wearables on tablet purchases remains negligible."

Mobile phones are the only category of hardware where prices are continuing to fall. Gartner expects shipments will grow to 1.9 billion in 2015, but noted that the growth rate for mobile is expected to slow down to 3.3 percent in 2015 as China reaches saturation point.

"The global market has been affected by a weaker performance in China. We have witnessed fewer and fewer first-time buyers in China, a sign that the mobile phone market in there is reaching saturation," said Annette Zimmermann, research director at Gartner.

"Vendors in China will have to win replacement buyers and improve the appeal of their premium offerings to attract upgrades, if they want to maintain or increase their market share."

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