While the global smartphone market will certainly continue to see growth for some time yet, the growth will be slower as maturing markets with higher penetration in China and elsewhere make it harder for smartphone vendors to maintain high growth rates.

According to IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, smartphone shipments will grow by 11.3 per cent in 2015, a decline of 27.6 per cent in 2014 and on par with IDC’s previous forecast for 2015 of 11.8 per cent. Overall shipment growth will taper off somewhat but IDC said many markets will still see robust growth in the years ahead as shipments build to 1.9 billion units annually by 2019.

A number of factors are driving the 2015 numbers. In China, IDC is projecting a slower growth rate than the worldwide average for the first time, at 2.5 per cent. Also, Android growth, at 8.5 per cent, is expected to be lower than the global shipments average as well. IDC sees both trends continuing through 2019.

“Smartphone volume still has a lot of opportunity in the years to come, but two fundamental segments driving recent years’ growth are starting to slow,” said Ryan Reith, program director with IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, in a statement. “Smartphone shipments in China actually declined year over year in the first quarter of 2015, showing that the largest market in the world has reached a level of maturity where rapid growth will be harder to achieve. This has implications for Android because China has been a critical market for Android smartphone shipments in recent years, accounting for 36 per cent of total volume in 2014. As Chinese OEMs shift their focus from the domestic market to the next high-growth markets, they will face a number of challenges, including competition from ‘local’ brands.”

IDC said Apple was in the same position in 2012-2014 with growth rates below the worldwide market, but Apple’s recent move to models with larger screens and broader country reach turned that around, and now iOS smartphone shipments are expected to grow above the global average, at 23 per cent in 2015.

“There’s no question that a large chunk of Apple’s installed base is still using older models (pre-iPhone 6/6+), which leaves continued growth opportunity in the second half of 2015 and beyond,” said Reith. “In addition, IDC believes a sizable portion of the Android installed base were those who migrated over to the platform from iOS with the desire for a larger screen smartphone. This is an opportunity Apple is no question focusing on. However, the price difference between Android/iOS devices in many markets will remain a significant hurdle for Apple.”

When examining market share by OS, Android is expected to capture 79.4 per cent of the market in 2015, dropping slightly to 79 per cent in 2019. Apple’s iOS will have 16.4 per cent of shipments in 2015, projected to drop to 14.2 per cent in 2019. Microsoft’s Windows Phone market share is projected to grow from 3.2 per cent in 2015 to 13.6 per cent of the market in 2015, while others is expected to drop from 14.2 per cent to 7.5 per cent of the market.

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