It's becoming an all-touch-screen world, at least when it comes to smartphones.
That's the prediction of a new report from ABI Research, which suggests that 97 percent of all smartphones will feature touch-screens by 2016. Compare that to the 7 percent of touch-screen-equipped smartphones in 2006, and you have some idea of the incredible popularity behind the form factor.
"It was the evolution of screen and touch technologies that triggered the [smartphone] market's rapid growth," claimed a note accompanying the Aug. 26 report. "The more economical resistive touch technology has been almost universally replaced in smartphones with the more elegant projected capacitive technology that was first introduced in mobile phones through the iPhone."
Moreover, touch-based technologies are now more accessible to cheaper devices, increasing market penetration. "Low-cost capacitive touch controllers that use just a single layer of sensors instead of two, and save as much as 30 [percent] on the cost, are opening the market for lower-end feature phones," Kevin Burden, vice president of mobile devices for ABI Research, wrote in the note. "And e-readers, which are the most fragmented device category in both display and touch technology, now have options that not only enable finger touch, but are at a cost that could standardize the segment's displays."
Research firm Gartner suggested in a recent research note that Google Android leads with 43.4 percent of the global smartphone market, followed by Nokia's Symbian with 22.1 percent, Apple iOS with 18.2 percent, RIM's BlackBerry franchise with 11.7 percent, Bada-a mobile OS developed by Samsung-with 1.9 percent, and Microsoft with 1.6 percent.
RIM and Symbian have faced significant market-share declines over the past year, according to third-party analysts. Nokia has agreed to abandon Symbian and another mobile operating system, MeeGo, in favor of Windows Phone. Those Microsoft-powered devices are expected by the end of 2011, but it remains an open question whether the new platform will halt or reverse the Finnish company's market slide.
"Smartphone sales continued to rise at the expense of feature phones," Roberta Cozza, an analyst at Gartner, wrote in an Aug. 11 statement. "Consumers in mature markets are choosing entry-level and midrange Android smartphones over feature phones, partly due to carriers' and manufacturers' promotions."