With 250 million 4G phones sold globally in 2013 and sales set to double in 2014, 4G is being adopted by consumers faster than any other previous telecommunications technology. This is according to the new annual mobile phone forecast by telecoms and media analysts CCS Insight. Global 4G phone sales are expected to rise to 1 billion in 2017, and to account for over half of the 2.3 billion mobile phones sold worldwide in 2018.
The Chinese market is one of the major drivers of this growth. Licences to operate 4G networks in China were only granted to mobile operators in December 2013, yet pre-orders for new handsets by mobile operators indicate that 38% of mobiles sold in China in 2014 will support 4G technology.
Marina Koytcheva, director of forecasting at CCS Insight said: “After seeing tremendous growth in smartphone adoption over the past two years, China will become the largest market for 4G-enabled phones as soon as 2014.”
The other driver of global 4G adoption is the astonishingly rapid fall in the price of 4G-enabled handsets and service plans in developed markets in the West. CCS Insight expects the cost of 4G phones to fall below €100 in the second half of 2014 and most network operators to remove any premium for using 4G services by the end of the year.
CCS Insight’s forecast also pinpoints the significant impact that China and emerging markets are having on the mobile operating system landscape. The analyst house predicts that most of Apple’s growth will come from these regions rather than developed markets, where it already has a significant market share.
Koytcheva said: “Although sales of iPhones will continue to grow, we forecast Apple’s global market share will decline. Apple’s absolute growth depends on this year’s new iPhone bringing major innovations or at least a big leap in the user experience. If it doesn’t, Apple can expect rivals to seize the opportunity in North America and Europe.”
The forecast projects Android’s dominance to continue unabated. Google’s operating system accounted for 79% of the 1 billion smartphones sold in 2013. Koytcheva said: “As Google solidified its partnership with Samsung and distanced itself from mobile phone manufacturing by selling Motorola Mobility to Lenovo, the forces threatening Android from within have been neutralised.”
Despite Microsoft’s somewhat disappointing share of the mobile market in 2013, CCS Insight’s outlook for Windows Phone is positive. “Abolishing the licence fee for Windows devices with screens under nine inches and updating the software to work on lower-cost hardware will enable Microsoft to compete at new low price points, down to $120,” Koytcheva said.
“We continue to question the depth of phone manufacturers’ commitment to Windows Phone compared with Android, but the significance of removing the licence fee can’t be ignored. BlackBerry’s decline into a niche is also opening up a promising opportunity in the business segment and early signs suggest that Windows Phone is benefiting from this.”
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