IDC: Smartphones with small displays are a dying breed

According to a new forecast from IDC, worldwide smartphone shipments are expected to rebound slightly in 2017 with expected growth of 3.0% over the previous year. In 2016, year-over-year growth was 2.5%, marking the lowest growth the industry has ever experienced. With several major devices entering the market this year, IDC anticipates unit shipment volumes will grow to 1.52 billion in 2017. And IDC expects this momentum to carry into 2018, when smartphone shipments are forecast to grow 4.5% year over year, fueled by improved economic conditions in many emerging markets and a full year of new iPhone shipments from Apple.

“2016 was an interesting year for smartphones with some high-growth markets down and other mature markets like the U.S. and China outpacing global growth rates,” said Ryan Reith, program vice president with IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Device Trackers, in a statement. “Looking ahead, we continue to believe several factors will enable the smartphone market to regain some of its momentum. First and foremost is that less than half the world’s population is currently using a smartphone, and markets like the Middle East & Africa, Central & Eastern Europe, and Southeast Asia still have plenty of room to grow. In addition, as consumers continue to demand more from their smartphones we expect to see a large portion of the installed base that is currently using low-end devices begin to seek a more robust experience on more capable devices. Media consumption, gaming, augmented and virtual reality, and constant connectivity are drivers of this trend.”

Despite the massive growth of the low-end smartphone market in the past few years, IDC still fully expects the high-end market will continue to hold its place in the industry. Advancements in computing, display technology, cameras, and storage will continue to create the need for high-end users to refresh their devices.

“With the ongoing fight at the high end, vendors will need to find a way to innovate ahead of the curve to attract new users and increase shipments while driving profits,” said Anthony Scarsella, research manager with IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, in a statement.

MacDailyNews Take: Even with the Mother of all iPhone Pauses already setting in Apple took 83% of smartphone market profits in calendar first quarter 2017.

Some fight.

Scarsella continues, “The display looks like it could be the next battlefield for the smartphone over the next couple years. We have seen both Samsung and LG opt for new borderless 18:9 displays and Apple could be set to join the party later this year. As smartphone owners continue to consume media on their devices, the screen (bigger, brighter, and bolder) will be an integral part of the overall design language for each vendor. From flexible to foldable and everything between, 18:9 displays look to be just the beginning of what’s to come.”

Platform Highlights

iOS: Coming off the first year in which iPhone shipments declined, expectations are that 2017 volumes will grow 3.8%. IDC slightly lowered its 2017 projections for Apple in this forecast to 223.6 million, while increasing its 2018 volumes to 240.4 million. All signs point to late 2017 and certainly 2018 being very strong for Apple as much of its installed base seems ready for a refresh and the next round of iPhones is not likely to disappoint its fans.

Android: Despite a slew of very attractive high-end Android products, IDC continues to see Android average selling prices (ASPs) decline and expectations are that the 1.5 billion Android phones that ship in 2021 will have a collective ASP of $198. Looking closer at 2018, the Middle East & Africa region for Android devices is expected to be the fastest growing at 10% year over year, which will well outpace the forecast for worldwide growth of 4.1%.

Windows Phone: Windows Phone shipments continue to fall as the lack of new hardware partners, developer support, and overall enthusiasm for the platform show no immediate signs of recovery. IDC expects 2017 volumes to decline 80.9% to just 1.1 million units. Microsoft has yet to fully commit to any “Surface”-style attack for smartphones or to push new vendors to embrace the platform, leaving little hope of mounting a full scaled comeback in the years to come.

IDC: Worldwide Smartphone Platform Shipments, Market Share, Year-Over-Year Growth, and 5-Year CAGR, 2017 and 2021 (shipments in millions)

IDC: Worldwide Smartphone Shipment Forecast by Screen Size, 2015-2021
Source: IDC


MacDailyNews Take: IDC has become so attached to the Microsoft teat over so many years, that they can’t bear to bury the Windows Phone corpse.

Take “Windows Phone” off the chart, IDC. You look silly.

Note also that IDC’s predictions five years out are about as accurate as Jimmy The Greek’s, who died in 1996.

IDC: Windows Phone will not surpass Apple’s iOS by 2018 – December 2, 2014
IDC: Windows Phone to surpass Apple’s iOS by 2016 – June 6, 2012
IDC: Windows Phone to surpass Apple’s iOS by 2015 – June 10, 2011

Apple took 83% of smartphone market profits in calendar first quarter – May 16, 2017


  1. I am always going to be a fan of small smart phones. It’s a phone for crying out loud. It has to fit your pocket. and has to do the task of a phone. when I want a large screen I tablet or laptop. That way I am not trying to figure out if the screen is too large or too small for the task at hand.

  2. This is the difference between objective reporting and political spin.

    IDC breaks out the top three phone OS platforms, regardless of the names of those companies. That would be known as objective reporting, not cowtowing as MDN asserts. MDN is always looking for ways to criticize companies it doesn’t like. Its take is an underhanded swipe at both Microsoft and IDC when in fact the data shows that Google is on the right track offering more phone choices in the sizes that people are buying. When called on this, MDN will claim that profit share is all that matters, which is only true in the short term.

    But here’s the realy interesting reality: MDN is too lazy to take the initiative and bundle MS into the “other” category and present its sanitized duopoly graph. Armchair critics and Google AdSense customer MDN, why must you be such hypocrites?

    MDN wants Apple to be a monopoly and pretends that Apple wouldn’t act like a monopoly if it had the market power. If anything, I would like to see more companies develop mobile phone platforms to keep Apple honest and to displace Google, which is actually MDN’s primary funding source.

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