Android, Helped by China, to Dominate Smartphone Market Into 2017

Android will dominate the smartphone market through 2017, according to a new report by Ovum. Canalys adds that China became the top smartphone market during the first quarter, with 25 percent of all Android phones shipping there.

Google€™s Android mobile operating system, receiving strong support from leading handset makers, will dominate the smartphone market over the next five years, research firm Ovum announced in a May 3 report.

Also contributing to Android€™s global success will be the Asia-Pacific region, and particularly China€”which during the first quarter, Canalys announced the same day, overtook the United States to become the world€™s largest smartphone market.

Ovum said it expects Android to hold 48 percent of the smartphone market by 2017, while growing at a slower pace than it has recently. In 2011, Android€™s share jumped to 44 percent, up from 2010€™s 17 percent. Apple, in 2017, is expected to control a 27 percent share in 2017, up from 2011€™s 23 percent share, with remaining smartphone players following at a good distance.

€œWhile Apple has defined the smartphone market since it introduced the iPhone in 2007, we€™re now seeing a sharp rise in the shipment volumes of Android, signalizing its appeal to leading handset makers,€ Adam Leach, Ovum principal analyst, said in a statement.

Ovum further expects Apple to remain a €œkey player and innovator€ during the forecast period, but its iPhones will remain behind Android devices, which are backed by Samsung, Motorola, LG and HTC, among others.

€œWe expect Microsoft, despite its slow start, to have established Windows Phone as a relevant smartphone platform by 2017,€ Leach added.

With help from Nokia, Ovum is forecasting that a 13 percent slice of the smartphone market will go to Microsoft by 2017. BlackBerry maker Research In Motion, €œdespite losing significant market share since its high point in 2009,€ said Ovum, will likely hold a 10 percent share of the smartphone market in 2017.

Overall, Ovum expects smartphone shipments, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of nearly 25 percent, to reach 1.7 billion units in 2017.

Canalys, meanwhile, reported that global smartphone shipments during the first quarter of the year totaled 146 million units, growing 45 percent year-on-year. While U.S. shipments rose at a pace of 5 percent year-on-year, the Asia-Pacific region posted an astounding 81 percent growth, with China representing 22 percent of shipments.

Despite Apple€™s strong showing in China, it was Samsung that led. Two-thirds of the smartphones shipping in China during the quarter were Android phones, said Canalys. Just as notable: More than 25 percent of all Android phones shipping globally were in China.

€œA multitude of international and local vendors are using Android to address the Chinese market, offering an array of devices at a wide range of price points,€ Canalys said in its report, adding that a major distinction in the Chinese market is the presence of third-party app stores, which are ubiquitous to a degree unseen elsewhere in the world.

€œ[Vendors] targeting this market must understand the intensity of competition between these stores and how it has promoted innovation,€ Tim Shepherd, a Canalys senior analyst, said in a statement. €œIf the big international appstore providers want to attract Chinese consumers, they must quickly reach the point where they can offer a large selection of good-quality, locally relevant apps and content. €¦ But they must also offer suitably localized and relevant featured app listings and ensure the content does not stagnate.€

RIM and Nokia, struggling to stay afloat as Android and Apple sales swell, have each been vocal about efforts to court users in China, as well as developing and midrange markets, and also to offer very localized offerings.

RIM CEO Thorsten Heins, answering questions from the press at RIM€™s BlackBerry World 2012 event May 2, said that RIM has built a €œlocalization team€ to deal with country-specific adaptations. Plus, he said€”giving away another secret about RIM€™s unreleased BlackBerry 10 platform€”new BlackBerry 10 handsets feature keyboard software so smart that they quickly detect what a user€™s native language is.

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