The arrival of Apple's iPhone in China is poised to accelerate the worldwide smartphone market, according to a Sept. 10 report from researcher iSuppli.
iSuppli expects worldwide factory shipments of smartphones to rise to 235.6 million units in 2010 - a growth of 27.9 percent from 2009's 184.2 million units. By 2011, shipments are expected to reach 334.1 million units, before climbing to 444.5 million units in 2013.
"China Unicom's move to start selling iPhones in China starting in the fourth quarter will sound the starting gun for China's smartphone market," said iSuppli Senior Analyst Tina Teng in a statement. "The arrival of the iPhone has compelled China Unicom's competitor, China Mobile, to introduce its own smartphone products and app store, helping to boost the market."
Apple has a three-year agreement to sell iPhones to China Unicom and on Sept. 1 Apple confirmed that the deal was not exclusive, intimating that a deal might still be struck with China Mobile.
iSuppli reports that smartphone acceptance is growing along with the deployment of 3G networks in China. The researcher expects smartphone shipments in China to reach 21.2 million units in 2009, before jumping by 42.5 percent in 2010 for a total of 30.2 million units. Numbers are expected to keep climbing, with shipments to China reaching 54.3 million in 2012 and 63.6 million units in 2013.
Another reason for the growth, says Teng, is the maturity of the market, which is opening up opportunities for multiple players, such as device manufacturers, operators, semiconductor vendors and platform providers.
"There has been broad deployment of 3G networks worldwide, a proliferation of wireless broadband services and the rising availability of various multimedia applications for mobile devices, With all this in place, wireless network operators are expected to offer competitive data service plans and aggressive subsidies to reduce consumer smartphone prices," said Teng.
"Furthermore, in encouraging customers to upgrade, wireless operators and handset brands are promoting the value smartphones deliver to consumers, rather than just playing up the hardware."
iSuppli describes smartphones as a bright spot in a dour cell phone market, which is expected to decline by 12.3 percent in 2009.