Smartphone, tablet and PC sales, when looked at together, are on the rise. And while smartphone numbers now dominate the three, tablets are the fastest-growing category, according to a Sept. 26 report from research firm IDC.
During the second quarter, shipments of the three, known collectively as smart connected devices, reached 267.3 million, up 27.4 percent from a year ago and nearly 3 percent from the quarter before. By year's end, IDC expects worldwide shipments to reach 1.2 billion and grow to 1.4 billion in 2013.
"The recent shipment data clearly demonstrates that we have fully entered into the multi-device era, where individuals are buying and using multiple devices per person, most often with different combinations of operating systems," Bob O'Donnell, an IDC program vice president, said in a statement. "The implications of this development on application developers, device makers, Web service providers, businesses and even individuals are profound."
Wireless operators have also made changes to adjust to multiple-device users. This summer, both Verizon Wireless and AT&T introduced plans that allow multiple devices and users to connect to a single data allotment, moving away from the longtime model of one device, one contract, one user.
AT&T has said that its new Mobile Share plans are intended to "give customers more control over how, where and on what device they use data, which has become more important as people use more data devices."
Despite the growth IDC noted, the firm says that in the United States, not just PCs but the entire smart connected device market is slowing down. During the second quarter, revenues for the combined categories fell 8.6 percent annually. IDC pointed to both macroeconomic conditions and a "degree of saturation" beginning to impact the market.
The September release of the Apple iPhone 5 had an arguable impact on second-quarter sales and profits throughout the industry, and its arrival is likely to be felt moving forward.
Investment firm Jefferies raised its iPhone sales estimates Sept. 25, telling investors that it now expects Apple to sell "at least 8 million to 10 million iPhone 5" units during the third quarter and 23 million to 26 million total iPhones during the quarter.
Jefferies additionally expects Apple to introduce an iPad Mini during the fourth quarter, and so raised its iPad sales estimates for the fourth quarter from 20.7 million units to 26 million units.
Apple rival Samsung will also introduce another tabletlike device later this year--a slightly larger version of its popular Galaxy Note phablet. The Galaxy Note 2 will feature a 5.5-inch display to the original Note's 5.3-inch display. Samsung, introducing a 10.1-inch Note in August, shared that it had already sold 10 million Galaxy Note devices, as well as 10 million Galaxy S III smartphones.
Apple, in the first three days of the iPhone 5's launch, sold 5 million units.
While smartphones will continue to make up "the bulk" of connected smart connected device volumes, said IDC, "tablets are expected to grow the fastest, at over 22 percent [compound annual growth rate] between 2012 and 2016."