Sales of smartphones are set to nearly double over the next few years, rapidly taking a greater share of overall mobile phone sales, according to a recent study by analyst firm Juniper Research.
The Next Generation Smartphones: Players, Opportunities & Forecasts 2008-2013 report predicts that annual sales of smartphones will rise by 95 per cent to over 300 million by 2013.
Juniper believes that the principal driver for this growing demand is the increased adoption of web-based mobile applications at the consumer and enterprise levels.
The trend began with the use of mobile email on devices such as Research in Motion's BlackBerry, but has spread to social applications such as networking, instant messaging and navigation. A range of office functions, such as customer relationship management, productivity tools and web-based applications, have also driven enterprise take-up.
Juniper said that the trend is not being lost on handset manufacturers, which see this as an ideal way to keep sales afloat in an otherwise tough environment. Vendors are not only producing devices capable of supporting these applications, the report said, but are starting to diversify into service provision as a means of bolstering earnings.
These kinds of services, such as music libraries and location-based social networking, present significant opportunities for the future, according to Andrew Kitson, author of the report.
"The process of evolving mobile phones into internet-centric, highly personalised mobile computers is well underway," he said.
"Changes in the design and form of mobile devices, such as the inclusion of large touch-based displays, have been taken to their limits. Looking ahead, the shape and form of next-generation devices will most likely be led by software and content, rather than hardware, as vendors such as Nokia strive to make their devices highly personalised and rooted firmly in the online environment."
Kitson reckons that 23 per cent of all new mobile phones will be smartphones by 2013, up from 13 per cent last year.
Sales of new mobiles plummeted in the second half of 2008, meaning that overall mobile device shipments grew only by a nominal five to six per cent. But key vendors are projecting a decline of up to 10 per cent or more in 2009.
Juniper's findings are corroborated by a recent report from ABI Research which stated that, although the mobile market had been significantly squeezed by the economic downturn, smartphones are becoming increasingly popular.
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