Users falling in love with smartphones, says analyst

Smartphones are expected to account for a growing proportion of mobile phones sold each year, potentially sustaining key brands such as Nokia during the recession.

This is according to a new Juniper report on next generation smartphones, which forecast that between 2008 and 2013, annual sales of smartphones would rise by 95 per cent to over 300 million.

It also said that by 2013, around 23 per cent of all new mobile phones would be smartphones, up from 13 per cent last year. However, key vendors were projecting a 10 per cent decline in mobile shipments next year.

The author of the report, Juniper Research analyst Andrew Kitson, told IT PRO that it was clear from anecdotal evidence that a growing number of mobile users were "falling in love" with the devices.

He said that this was partly because smartphones had come down sharply in price in recent years. It was also because the features on the desktop' of mid- and high-end devices now mimicked so closely the experience of a laptop or desktop computer that they had become much easier to understand.

He saw smartphones as the crossover device between mobile phones and computers, and this was driving its growth.

He said: "A growing number of mobile users are now reliant on mobile web 2.0 services. The most obvious application is Facebook, but there's also Twitter. And it is these multimedia-centric services and applications that are driving demand for smartphones."

People are prepared to pay more for a high-end device that had all the features they wanted, rather than do with a budget phone offering them only limited connectivity and functions, he said.

Kitson also believed that Nokia would remain the market leader due to its brand recognition and weather the storm comfortably thanks to its positioning as a service provider with music, mapping, gaming and email services.

He was also positive about the Apple iPhone: "The iPhone has had a massive influence on the smartphone market and is clearly the main reason why smartphones have become popular for mass-market users in the last 18 months."

In the business market, he said that Research in Motion and Nokia would retain their market dominance, but he also believed that as business users seek to combine their mobile phone needs on a single device, smaller brands such as HTC, Panasonic and Sharp would do well.