China is poised to displace the United States as the number one smartphone market worldwide in 2012, according to the latest figures from the research firm International Data Corporation (IDC).
Although China is only expected to surpass the US by a very slim margin, Wong Teck Zhung, a Senior Market analyst with IDC’s Asia/Pacific Client Devices team, warned in the report:
“There will be no turning back this leadership changeover.”
Along with increased competition in the region, IDC attributed Google's Android smartphones priced below US$200 (€152) and other low-cost smartphones as key drivers for growth of the smartphone market.
Teck Zhung added:
"Emerging domestic vendors will be another important engine of smartphone growth as giants Huawei, ZTE, and Lenovo continue to ramp up with big carrier orders due to their willingness to produce customized handsets. International players such as Samsung and Nokia are also expected to drive volume at the low end with cheaper smartphones."
Beyond this year, IDC researchers predicted that India and Brazil will enter the top five country markets for smartphone shipments by 2016, primarily thanks to the increased shift from feature phones to smartphones as 3G networks are built out in these regions.
Rest assured, the IDC acknowledged that mature markets such as Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States will continue to see their smartphone markets get bigger.
After all, a recent Nielsen study found that nearly 60% of all new mobile phones sold in the United States are smartphones.
Another report from Google in January found smartphone usage amongst consumers in the United Kingdom has jumped from 30 to 45% over the course of 2011.
Nevertheless, the rate at which they are growing is not expected to keep up with emerging markets.