Smartphones Poised to Overtake Mobile Phones in 2013: 10 Reasons Why

NEWS ANALYSIS: For the first time, smartphone shipments are expected to outpace mobile phone shipments. What happened over the past six years to bring this about?

Smartphones are poised for a big 2013. In fact, a new study from research firm IDC has found that as worldwide feature phone shipments decline, the number of smartphones to hit the market will rise significantly.

For the first time, smartphone shipments in 2013 will outpace mobile device shipments. According to IDC, 918.6 million smartphones will ship during the year, representing about 50.1 percent of all device vendor shipments.

Although mobile phone and smartphone shipments will be nearly tied this year, looking ahead, the latter will continue to gain market share. By 2017, less than 40 percent of all mobile device shipments worldwide will be feature phones.

That smartphones have finally overtaken feature phones might surprise some. For years, feature phones were tops because they delivered a low-price alternative to the higher-priced smartphones. More importantly, they catered to emerging markets around the world where land lines were scarce and people needed affordable mobile phones, but couldn't afford smartphones.

Now, though, things are different. And smartphones reign supreme.

Read on to find out why.

1. Emerging markets

As noted, emerging markets were once the reason mobile phones outpaced smartphones. However, people in those countries are increasingly opting for smartphones. Why? Blame it on the vendors. Now more vendors than ever are offering low-priced smartphones designed for emerging markets. Nokia, for example, sells several smartphone lines that are shipped to South American and Asian nations to give customers smartphone features for a mobile phone price. As expected, customers are lining up to get those products.

2. Blame it on Apple

Apple is arguably the biggest reason smartphones today are so popular. In 2007, when the iPhone launched, Apple transformed the smartphone market with it touch-screen-based iPhone. Soon after, the company's device set sales records all over the world. Meanwhile, other companies delivered their own smartphones and soon enough, just about everyone wanted a smartphone with a touch-screen.

3. Blame it on Google, too

Google might also be the culprit behind the smartphone's dramatic rise in the mobile space. Google's Android operating system delivered an open-source option that smartphone makers wanted to compete with Apple. Now, Android is a hugely popular operating system with a ton of vendor support and faithful consumers.

4. China is booming

When the mobile phone market was still soaring, China wasn't nearly as important a market as it is today. The Chinese middle class is booming and as their paychecks rise, so too are their desires for mobile devices. Consumers in China are throwing away their feature phones at a rapid rate so they can get their hands on smartphones like Apple's iPhone. Without China, the smartphone market wouldn't be so large.

Don Reisinger

Don Reisinger

Don Reisinger is a longtime freelance contributor to several technology and business publications. Over his career, Don has written about everything from geek-friendly gadgetry to issues of privacy...