Apple, HTC and BlackBerry maker RIM are leading a smartphone market that's growing at an "extraordinary" pace, says ABI Research. However, this growth is unlikely to last.
The global smartphone market grew 50 percent during the second quarter,
compared with figures from a year ago, ABI
Research reported Oct. 26. Driven by strong sales from Apple, HTC
and BlackBerry maker RIM, smartphones constituted 19 percent of all handsets
shipped during the quarter, representing a 12 percent jump from the first
"The market is exploding," ABI
Senior Analyst Michael Morgan wrote in the report, adding that while 10 percent
growth would normally be considered "very good" quarter-on-quarter
growth, in today's market, such a figure would be chalked up as "lackluster."
Helping to drive such "remarkable" growth rates, said Morgan, are
the low prices of handsets, which both have fallen and are now often heavily
subsidized. The question being asked now, he said, is whether such a market
structure can be sustained.
The answer? "Most observers say no," Morgan continued. "It
needs to boil down to three or perhaps four key operating systems."
Apple, with its iPhones running iOS, shipped 8.4 million iPhones during the
second quarter (approximately 3 million of which were the iPhone 4), resulting
in a quarter-on-quarter growth of 68 percent, according to ABI.
Taiwan-based HTC, which has filled its
mobile portfolio with Android-running smartphones, also saw shipments grow
during the quarter, from 3.3 million to 5.3 million handsets. And RIM, which
launched its newest OS, BlackBerry 6-not to mention the QNX-based BlackBerry
Tablet OS, on its PlayBook tablet-saw shipments grow from 10.5 million to 11.2
million, a figure expected to climb more significantly in future quarters. "RIM
hasn't seen the full benefit of its OS launch yet," Morgan explained.
Additionally, Hewlett-Packard, which this summer purchased Palm, will soon
begin offering smartphones running the Palm-created WebOS, while Intel and
Nokia are working on handsets
running MeeGo-an OS created from a mix of Nokia's Maemo and Intel's Moblin.
Finally, Samsung, while investing heavily in Android, has also introduced Wave
and Wave II smartphones, which run its proprietary Bada open-source
In subsidized smartphone markets, a final barrier to adoption, says ABI's
Morgan, is now the cost of data plans.
Executives at Verizon Wireless, during their third-quarter earnings call Oct.
22, confirmed that like rival AT&T it will soon
begin offering tiered pricing for its data plans, including a $15 option
that it expects will attract first-time smartphone users. Unlike AT&T,
however, which recently ended its offer of an unlimited plan, Verizon still
plans to offer an "all-you-can-eat" option.
The latter, suggests the ABI report, may
also be contributing to the unsustainable nature of the current smartphone
The "huge numbers of smartphones now connected in U.S.,
particularly those running iOS and Android," states the report, are
creating "capacity concerns." Such concerns, said Morgan, are "sucking
the value out" of the mobile ecosystem.
Michelle Maisto has been covering the enterprise mobility space for a decade, beginning with Knowledge Management, Field Force Automation and eCRM, and most recently as the editor-in-chief of Mobile Enterprise magazine. She earned an MFA in nonfiction writing from Columbia University, and in her spare time obsesses about food. Her first book, The Gastronomy of Marriage, if forthcoming from Random House in September 2009.