International Data Corporation is forecasting a 4 percent year-over-year growth rate for the worldwide mobile phone market in 2012, which would be the lowest it's been since 2009. Why the slow growth compared to previous years? IDC says it's because of the decline in feature phone shipments, as owners of older devices cling to their phones, which serve them just fine for talking and texting. Meanwhile, smartphone shipments will pick up some of the slack and are forecast to grow 38.8 percent year-over-year to 686 million units in 2012, at precisely the time Android peaks in terms of market share.
That's an interesting prediction by IDC, because it implies there's no where to go but down (or hold steady), and in fact that's where IDC sees Android going, even though it will remain a market leader.
"Underpinning the smartphone market is the constantly shifting OS landscape," saud Ramon Llamas, senior research analyst with IDC's Mobile Phone Technology and Trends team. "Android will maintain leadership throughout our forecast, while others will gain more mobile operator partnerships (Apple) or currently find themselves in the midst of a major transition (BlackBerry and Windows Phone/Windows Mobile). What remains to be seen is how these different operating systems – as well as others – will define and shape the user experience beyond what we see today in order to attract new customers and encourage replacements."
IDC predicts Android will close out the year with a 61 percent share of the smartphone market, well ahead of iOS (20.5 percent), BlackBerry OS (6 percent), and Windows Phone 7 / Windows Mobile (5.2 percent). By 2016, IDC sees Android dropping to 52.9 percent as Microsoft's Windows Phone platform bulls its way into second place with a 19.2 percent share, edging out iOS at 19 percent.