Last year, the number of smartphone subscribers in the world surpassed the number of feature phone subscribers. We expect the share of people using smartphones to grow at a rapid pace through 2020, when 87% of all mobile subscribers will have a smartphone. Several factors will drive this trend, including the falling average selling price of smartphones, the increasing availability of low-cost data plans, greater 3G penetration, and the continued rise of mobile messaging apps, social media, mCommerce, and mobile apps. The majority of new smartphone subscribers will come from Asia Pacific and Africa; the opportunity that developed markets present to handset manufacturers is primarily in the form of handset replacement. According to our recently published Forrester Research World Mobile And Smartphone Adoption Forecast, 2015 To 2020 (Global), in 2020 there will be more than 5.4 billion active smartphones in the hands of more than 3.6 billion subscribers across the globe. Some of the implications of rapid smartphone growth are as follows:

  • Shortening the smartphone replacement cycle in developed markets.In most developed markets, smartphone penetration is saturating; vendors are expected to launch programs like Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Program to increase smartphone sales by shortening the replacement cycle. And it’s not just the US; handset manufacturers or telcos may launch similar programs in other regions with high smartphone penetration, including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, the Netherlands, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, the UK, and the United Arab Emirates.
  • Booming mobile app downloads. According to our recently published Forrester Research Mobile Application Spending Forecast, 2015 To 2020 (Global), consumers will download more than 226 billion apps in 2015. We expect that more than 92% of these apps will be free and that app spending will shift toward in-app purchases and advertising by 2020. In countries like China and India, Android is driving app downloads at a rapid pace. It took Android (excluding Chinese app stores) almost 57 months to cross the 50 billion milestone, compared with about 59 months for Apple. Chinese app stores serving Android users, such as 360 Mobile Assistant, Anzhi Market, Baidu, Huawei, MIUI, Myapp, and Wandoujia are expected to account for more than half of the world’s app downloads in 2015.

Other changes contributing to the rise in smartphone penetration include growth in mCommerce, mobile advertising, social media, mobile payments, and app-based services like cab booking and similar on-demand services.

Related Forrester Research

Forrester Research World Mobile And Smartphone Adoption Forecast, 2015 To 2020 (Global)