Apple is pulling closer to Samsung on the mobile device front as worldwide shipments of smart connected devices grew 29.1 percent year over year in 2012, crossing 1 billion units that shipped with a value of $576.9 billion. So says IDC's Smart Connected Device Tracker.
Tablet shipments were the star of the show, with 78.4 percent year-over-year growth. And Apple is the star of the tablet world. The iPad mini, in particular, turned heads. Apple significantly closed the gap with market leader Samsung in the quarter, as the combination of Apple's iPhone 5 and iPad Mini brought Apple up to 20.3 percent unit shipment share versus 21.2 percent for Samsung.
"The iPad Mini is popular because it's competing directly in the Kindle space. It's competing directly in the Samsung Galaxy Tab II space," said Michael Disabato, managing vice president of network and telecom at Gartner.
"American Airlines has Samsung tablets in the passenger compartment for the flight crew," Disabato told us. "The only reason they didn't go with Apple is because the Mini hadn't been announced yet. I'm anticipating when Apple does a refresh of the Mini, Samsung is going to fall off the airplane. Being with an IT practitioner I'll go with a single platform and it's not going to be Android because the FAA hasn't approved Android."
Tablets To Overtake PCs
Drilling into the fourth quarter of 2012, IDC reports combined shipments of desktop PCs, notebook PCs, tablets, and smartphones was nearly 378 million and revenues were more than $168 billion. On a revenue basis for the fourth quarter, Apple continued to dominate with 30.7 percent share versus 20.4 percent share for Samsung.
"Consumers and business buyers are now starting to see smartphones, tablets, and PCs as a single continuum of connected devices separated primarily by screen size," said Bob O'Donnell, IDC program vice president for clients and displays. "Each of these devices is primarily used for data applications and different individuals choose different sets of screen sizes in order to fit their unique needs. These kinds of developments are creating exciting new opportunities that will continue to drive the smart connected devices market forward in a positive way."
Looking ahead, IDC predicts that tablet shipments will surpass desktop PCs in 2013 and portable PCs in 2014. In 2013, worldwide desktop PC shipments are expected to drop by 4.3 percent and portable PCs to maintain a flat growth of 0.9 percent. The tablet market, on the other hand, is expected to reach a new high of 190 million shipment units, with year-on-year growth of 48.7 percent, while the smartphone market is expected to grow 27.2 percent, to 918.5 million units.
Emerging Markets Boost
From a regional perspective, the smart connected device volume in emerging markets grew by 41.3 percent in 2012 with the tablet volume growing by 111.3 percent and smartphone volume by 69.7 percent year-over-year. Mature markets, on the other hand, grew by 15.6 percent and saw a huge plunge in the PC market in the year 2012.
By the end of year 2017, IDC predicts that the tablet and smartphone markets will have a huge growth potential in the emerging markets. During this time, tablet unit shipments are expected to increase by a factor of three with a shipment value of $125 billion while smartphone unit shipments are expected to double and reach a shipment value of $462 billion. Portable PCs, on the other hand, will show a moderate single-digit growth while desktop PCs are expected to consistently decline year over year with almost no growth in 2017.
"In emerging markets, consumer spending typically starts with mobile phones and, in many cases, moves to tablets before PCs," said Megha Saini, research analyst for IDC's Worldwide Smart Connected Device Tracker. "The pressure on the PC market is significantly increasing and we can see longer replacement cycles coming into effect very soon, and that, too, will put downward pressure on PC sales."
Looking forward, IDC predicts the worldwide smart connected device space will continue to surge, with shipments surpassing 2.2 billion units and revenues reaching $814.3 billion in 2017.