January 28, 2011 at 11:14 am

Mobile Phone Market Leaps Record 18 Percent: Report

cellphone smartphone concert idc market adoption worldwideThese days, everyone seems to have a smartphone or, at the very least, what the industry calls a “feature phone,” whose main “feature” appears to be an inability to install apps. Nonetheless, people all over the world purchased new phones at a record-breaking clip during last three months of 2010.

The worldwide mobile phone market surged 17.9 percent last quarter according to a report issued on Friday by the analysis firm IDC, marking the biggest quarterly increase ever documented by the firm.  Overall, cellphone shipments grew 18.5 percent in 2010, the largest annual increase in four years.

Why did vendors ship so many new phones in 2010, particularly at the end of the year, when in 2009, new cellphone shipments actually sank?

IDC points to a stronger worldwide economy as well as “a wider array of increasingly affordable smartphones” as the reason for this. “Increasingly affordable smartphones” sounds a lot like “Android smartphones” to us, and indeed, much of this growth was driven by Android phones, according to an earlier Nielsen study.

Android still lags considerably behind the iPhone when it comes to apps. But given the herd-like nature of the smartphone market — and the fact that Google reportedly plans to launch a web-accessible, centralized version of the Android Marketplace — Android could catch up in the apps department the same way it has in hardware. Regardless, the entire sector is booming, largely due to customers snapping up app-running smartphones.

“The mobile phone market has the wind behind its sails,” said Kevin Restivo, senior research analyst with IDC’s Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker. “Mobile phone users are eager to swap out older devices for ones that handle data as well as voice, which is driving growth and replacement cycles.”

Smartphones will continue to drive the worldwide mobile phone market until at least 2014, according to IDC, which expects smartphone shipments to increase 43.7 percent this year over 2010.

Many of these purchases will represent upgrades from previous smartphones, and Android users are as likely as iPhone users to stick with their current platform according to eMarketer, which also found that more and more of you will choose Android over the coming years, with Android’s market share eclipsing that of the iPhone by 2012.

“The open-source Android OS requires no licensing fee, and allows handset manufacturers and wireless carriers considerable latitude to customize the user interface according to their desired specifications,” said eMarketer principle analyst Noah Elkin. “With a growing roster of manufacturer and carrier partners in every major market and market segment, scale for Android is coming quickly in terms of device, market share, apps and ad revenues.”

As boring as market predictions can be, these ones have a special resonance for smartphone users, who benefit when their platform becomes more popular. If more people use your type of smartphone, that platform will draw more app developers, improving the phone even after you buy it.

Photo courtesy of Flickr/dougww