1.2B Smartphones Sold In 2014, Led By Larger Screens And Latin America

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Apple is reaping the biggest rewards right now when it comes to selling its smartphones and other devices, but the overall picture for the smartphone market in the year ahead may be a little less rosy. According to the analysts at Germany-based GfK, in 2014 there were 1.2 billion smartphones sold, up 23% on the year before and crossing the billion-unit point for the first time. But they predict sales will slow down to 14% growth in 2015, working out to total sales of 1.368 billion devices.

The reason? More countries are reaching their smartphone saturation point, and so the industry is looking ever more for growth in two places: emerging markets where smartphone adoption is still at an early stage; and among consumers flocking to buying newer models with larger screens.

Looking back on 2014, GfK’s numbers speak to how a collective population of feature phone users — which were still the majority of sales at the start of the year — shifted to becoming smartphone owners. Android took many of those newbies under its green wing.

GfK’s numbers are worth noting because the company tracks actual sales of devices from more than 90 markets. In contrast, companies like Strategy Analytics and IDC track shipments, and perhaps as a result, their numbers appear to come out a bit higher than GfK’s.

Kevin Walsh, a trends analyst director with GfK, says that coupled with the focus on emerging markets where consumers will be more price sensitive, pricing will continue to drop, too.

“We forecast emerging regions to drive growth in 2015 as smartphones further penetrate lower price points,” he says. “GfK forecasts that smartphone price bands above $150 will see a decline in their market share. At the next level down, $100-150, sales will remain stable, but it is the cheaper smartphones priced below this point that will gain share.” GfK notes that every region except for North America and developed Asia Pacific markets like Japan and Korea saw a decrease in the average selling price in Q4 2014.

Although prices may be shrinking, the screens are doing anything but that. Unit sales of smartphones with larger screens of 5” or more grew 180% in 2014 and will be the largest segment in 2015. No surprise that this trend is eating into the tablet market, too.

Smartphones

Units Sold (in mil.)

Sales Value (in billion USD)

FY 2013

FY 2014

% Change

FY 2013

FY 2014

% Change

Latin America

68.7

109.5

59%

20.6

31.4

52%

Central & Eastern Europe

50.9

69.8

37%

15.1

17.2

14%

North America

139.1

177.6

28%

58.2

71.8

23%

Emerging APAC

96.9

149.9

55%

22.3

28.4

27%

Middle East & Africa

99.8

135.2

35%

32.3

39.4

22%

Western Europe

115.4

128.0

11%

52.2

55.8

7%

China Units

359.0

392.8

9%

90.1

99.0

10%

Developed APAC

68.3

65.1

-5%

39.6

38.1

-4%

Total global units

998

1,228

23%

330.4

381.1

15%

Primary Source: GfK Smartphone sales based on point-of-sale (POS) tracking in 90+ markets

As you can see in the table above, when it comes to which region saw the most growth in smartphone usage last year, Latin America saw the most active buyers, with sales up to nearly 110 million, a rise of 59%. Emerging Asia Pacific countries came a close second with 55% growth.

At the other end of the spectrum is high volume but slower growth. In China, there were nearly 400 million smartphones sold — almost one-third of the global total — but the country is now in the saturated market category, seeing growth of only 9% last year, with growth slowing to a flat standstill in Q4. Despite that, GfK notes that “China will remain the biggest market in terms of both unit and value sales for the foreseeable future.” Total sales of smartphones in Q4 in China were up to $28 billion, a rise of 21 percent.

Smartphones

Units Sold (in mil.)

Sales Value (in billion USD)

Q4 2013

Q4 2014

% Change

Q4 2013

Q4 2014

% Change

Latin America

25.1

36.0

43%

7.2

9.9

37%

Central & Eastern Europe

16.7

21.5

29%

4.5

5.1

12%

North America

43.6

57.0

31%

18.4

25.1

36%

Emerging APAC

30.4

41.8

37%

6.4

7.6

18%

Middle East & Africa

27.9

37.8

35%

8.7

10.8

25%

Western Europe

35.1

40.0

14%

15.6

17.2

10%

China Units

95.0

95.1

0%

23.5

28.3

21%

Developed APAC

18.1

17.3

-4%

10.9

10.9

0%

Total global units

292.0

346.5

19%

95.3

114.8

20%

Primary Source: GfK Smartphone sales based on point-of-sale (POS) tracking in 90+ markets

 

Likewise, Japan and other “developed” Asia Pacific countries saw smartphone sales actually decline by 5% in 2014 (and down 4% in Q4 alone), due in part to changes in handset subsidies in Korea but also that continued issue of market saturation.

North America appears to be the region with a happy medium: it had the largest number of smartphones sold after China for the year, but also coupled that with above average growth of 28%.

GfK didn’t publish any numbers on which handset makers were doing well, and which were not. But we asked and they’ve provided at least some platform data — albeit incomplete: it left out all of North America and doesn’t break out which Android makers are in the lead, and doesn’t distinguish between iOS and any other non-Android platform.

Still, for what it is, it’s a revealing picture of just how strong Android is in certain markets at the moment. As you can see, globally when you exclude North America, at the start of 2014, the majority of mobile sales were still feature phones, accounting for 68% of all sales. By Q4, Android held a 57% of all sales, while featurephones were just at 29%. “Other smartphones,” which are primarily iPhone devices, ended 2014 just as it started: with 14% of sales.

Considering how much we talk about smartphones running the show today, it’s interesting to see just how powerful featurephones were at the start of 2014 in a number of other markets: they accounted for a majority of sales in every market in Q1, with India in the lead with 94% of all mobile sales going to feature phones. While “other smartphones” remained stable or declined slightly, Android has been the platform seeing the most growth.

OS Shares in sales units %
Global ex-NA

Android

Other smartphones

Featurephones

Global 4Q/11

18

14

68

4Q/12

38

12

50

4Q/13

52

12

36

4Q/14

57

14

29

Europe 4Q/11

22

21

57

4Q/12

38

19

43

4Q/13

51

18

31

4Q/14

58

21

21

MidEast/Africa 4Q/11

4

16

80

4Q/12

16

14

70

4Q/13

28

11

61

4Q/14

42

9

49

SouthEast Asia 4Q/11

23

16

61

4Q/12

32

17

51

4Q/13

43

20

37

4Q/14

51

19

30

Greater China 4Q/11

29

15

56

4Q/12

67

11

22

4Q/13

80

9

11

4Q/14

75

15

10

India 4Q/11

2

4

94

4Q/12

7

5

88

4Q/13

17

5

78

4Q/14

28

3

69

Latam 4Q/11

13

6

81

4Q/12

27

8

65

4Q/13

59

9

32

4Q/14

78

8

14