Sales of smartphones around the world rose 50 per cent in 2013 to one billion units but are only expected to exceed 1.2bn in 2014, according to the latest research by market watcher Futuresource.
The prediction is in line with forecasts made for this year by a range of analysts suggesting the formerly surging smartphone market is approaching saturation in developed regions especially.
Oliver Rowntree, market analyst at Futuresource, said there are ongoing opportunities in some markets and certain areas, however.
"Smartphones have seen a steady move towards larger screen sizes. The vast majority of smartphones sold in 2013 had screens of between 4in and 5.5in," he said. "Smartphones with screens smaller than 4in were typically iPhone 4s or 4ses, or lower-end Android devices. Since the release of the 4in iPhone 5, fewer devices have been sold with smaller screen sizes.
"Phablet smartphones with screen sizes over 5.5in began to gain momentum in 2013. Although they are extremely popular in South East Asia they are still rather more of a niche in other markets, making up six per cent of overall worldwide sales in 2013."
Rowntree indicated that phablets are expected to grow their worldwide share as narrower bezels and mobile content proliferate.
Smartphones already make up the developed world-majority of mobile phone handset sales, which as a whole last year expanded by a relatively sedate 11 per cent to 1.7bn units. Nevertheless, in developing markets, feature phones are still expanding their footprint, as are smartphones in the poorer countries where they buy one device to do most tasks.
Other "developing" nations, however, are not far behind the US and western Europe, going by Futuresource's forecast.
"China remained the largest smartphone market by a significant margin, sustaining extremely rapid growth in 2013 to become over twice the size of the next largest market, the USA. Futuresource anticipates that Chinese growth will slow from 2014 as [sales to] the wealthier middle class approaches saturation," Rowntree said.
Futuresource's figures are from its latest Mobile Handset Market report, which assesses volumes, trade values and key vendors until the end of the first half of 2014.
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