Smartphone Shipments to Hit 850 Million Units by 2015: In-Stat

A new In-Stat report expects smartphone shipments to keep climbing, hitting 850 million units by 2015, on the way to the 1 billion mark.

Smartphone sales are on the rise, with no plans for slowing down, research firm In-Stat announced in a Jan. 25 report on the evolving smartphone space.

With smartphones' robust processing power and memory, large screens and open operating systems attracting ever-greater numbers of consumers, In-Stat expects smartphone shipments to begin closing in on the 1 billion units mark, reaching nearly 850 million by 2015.

"There are several critical factors that drive smartphone success," Allen Nogee, In-Stat principal analyst, said in a statement. "These include a powerful browser, a wide variety of apps, an easy to navigate user interface, and a good keyboard or touchscreen. Additionally, other intangible attributes, such as being -fashionable' and that -your friends have one,' are important."

The report also predicts that Google's Android - which has grown to become the second most popular operating system worldwide, since its U.S. debut less than two years ago - will pass the Nokia-backed Symbian to take the crown.

"The demise of Symbian has been greatly overstated," reports In-Stat. "On a global basis, annual unit shipments of Symbian-based handsets will continue to grow, resulting in Symbian having the second highest unit shipments of all the smartphone OSs."

Android's besting Symbian is expected to be just one part of an escalating "OS war," the report continues, adding that Intel and Nokia's MeeGo, Samsung's Bada and Hewlett-Packard's WebOS are among the operating systems that will join an already "very crowded market."

Predictions also included in the report are that by 2015, more than two-thirds of shipped smartphones will still be WCDMA based, with LTE (long-term evolution) -the flavor of 4G being rolled out by Verizon Wireless, AT&T and, eventually, T-Mobile - accounting for only a "small minority" of annual handset shipments, even into 2015. This estimate is in keeping with 2011 predictions from research firm Yankee Group, which described 4G as being just "a drop in the ocean" this year, with consumer awareness of 4G expected to remain "stubbornly low," even by the year's end.

In-Stat added that by 2012, more than half of the United States' handset shipments will be smartphones.

Evidence of the latter came across in Verizon Wireless' Jan. 25 earnings call. During the quarter leading up to the anticipated launch of Verizon's CDMA version of the Apple iPhone 4, it announced that of the postpaid subscriptions it added during the quarter, 75 percent were smartphones. A total of 26 percent of its postpaid customer base was using smartphones, it added, which was up 15 percent from a year ago.

In a November report on worldwide smartphone shipments, IDC Analyst Kevin Restivo described smartphone makers, and most notably Apple, Samsung and HTC, as currently "having the wind behind their sails."

Shipments during the third quarter of 2010 totaled 81.1 million units, which was up 89.5 percent from a year earlier. Apple enjoyed its best-ever sales during the quarter. The addition of the iPhone to the Verizon Wireless network, then, may not only give a boost to Apple's and Verizon's smartphone figures, but the market as a whole.