Smartphones are continuing their march toward world domination. On Monday, Ericsson released its latest Mobility Report, showing that 55 percent of mobile
phones sold in the third quarter were smartphones and that high-speed cellular service is rapidly covering the planet.
By 2019, the report said, 60 percent of the projected 9.3 billion mobile subscriptions will be for smartphones, although only about 25 percent to 30 percent of subscriptions are currently. Also by 2019, WCDMA/HSPA 3G networks will cover 90 percent of the world's population, while 65 percent will be covered by 4G/LTE networks.
The level of smartphone traffic will boom accordingly, growing 10 times by 2019. By that year, video will represent more than half of all mobile data traffic, as it is currently growing 55 percent annually.
'Phenomenal' Rapid Pace
Douglas Gilstrap, Ericsson senior vice president, said in a statement that "the rapid pace of smartphone update has been phenomenal and is set to continue." While it took more than five years to reach the first billion smartphone subscriptions, he pointed out, the second billion market will be hit in less than two.
Smartphones have become much more than a nice-to-have in many parts of the developed world. The Ericsson report found that good mobile coverage -- the number of bars your reception shows -- is now ranked among "the top five satisfaction factors of life in a city."
With the developed markets approaching saturation in terms of smartphone adoption, the real driver is the growth rate in the emerging markets, most notably population-heavy China and India. While there have been a number of recent developments relating to low-priced smartphones in emerging markets, several companies have made the growth of smartphones in those areas an essential part of their long-term strategy.
For instance, two upstart mobile platforms -- the Firefox and Ubuntu OSes -- have been developed around plans to release low-cost smartphones in developing nations. And computer maker Lenovo, enjoying success with the sale of its mobile devices in China and a few other markets in Asia, recently announced that it was adding another 20 emerging markets where its low-cost devices will also be released.
In fact, that company, the world's largest PC maker, has announced that it intends to increase the percentage of its sales attributed to smartphones from the current level of 20 percent to 50 percent within five years, largely because of emerging markets.
Laura DiDio, an analyst with industry research firm Information Technology Intelligence Consulting, said she found the 60 percent estimate of smartphone subscriptions by 2019 in the Ericsson report to be "surprising," in that she expects it will be considerably higher -- possibly 75 percent or more.
She also pointed out that, while the developed nations have fairly linear growth for such technologies as smartphones and high-speed cellular, the emerging markets do not have as many requirements to accommodate legacy technologies. "When they grow" in adoption of mobile technologies, DiDio noted, "they explode, exponentially."