The declining demand for feature phones will lead to the slowest growth in the mobile market for three years, new research has claimed.
IDC has predicted the market will increase by more than 4% year on year, with a total of 1.8 billion devices shipped. The feature phone market is set to drop by 10% this year. IDC said owners of those devices are holding onto them because of uncertain job and economic prospects. However, by the end of 2012, feature phones will still account for 61.6% of the market.
By contrast, smartphone shipments will leap 38.8% to 686 million this year, driven by high operator subsidies, falling prices and component costs, increased awareness and device diversity, and lower cost data plans.
Kevin Restivo, senior research analyst at IDC's World Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, said: 'The smartphone parade won't be as lively this year as it has been in the past. The mobile phone user transition from feature phones to smartphones will continue in a gradual but unabated fashion. Smartphone growth, however, will increasingly be driven by a triumvirate of smartphone operating systems, namely Android, iOS and Windows Phone 7.'
IDC predicted interest in Android will peak this year with a 61% share, but said it will be the most shipped smartphone OS during the next five years, driven mainly by Samsung. The research agency said momentum in western Europe, North America and China will help Apple continue its 'impressive' iOS sales. It estimated that it will hold a 20.5% share by the end of this year.
However, Windows Phone will replace iOS as the number two operating system by 2016, IDC said, boosted by Nokia's strength at targeting emerging markets. It predicted a share of 19.2% within five years, compared to iOS' 19%.
Editor: Graeme Neill