IDC Forecasts Mobile Sales Growth to 2016: Windows Phone 8 a Winner

The International Data Corporation (aka IDC) just released its Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker report, providing predictions for mobile phone sales by OS through 2016.

The clear market leader, according to IDC, will be Android, whose massive 68.3% market share in 2012 represents the lion’s share. While IDC predicts this will fall to 63.8% in 2016, this is still 16.3% total growth as IDC believes we will go from 1.7 billion smartphones sold globally in 2012 to 2.2 billion in 2016.

Android will lead in market share but Apple will make the most money as per usual with their high margins. IDC predicts they will go from 18.8% market share in 2012 to 19.1% in 2016. That is believable.

The most relevant part of the forecast for me is the part that sees Windows Phone 8 growing from 2.6% in 2012 to 11.5% in 2016. To that, Redmond I’m sure will say, “Amen”. Windows Phone 8 growth they say, will be driven by Nokia offerings, followed by HTC which is “solidly jumping back into the race.”

The reality however, is that forecasting the mobile market four years out is like forecasting the weather 4 weeks out. Yes, we know what the duopoly at the top will look like, i.e., Android leads, iOS follows, but the Windows Phone 8 forecast as well as RIM (with their new BB10 OS) has got to be mostly speculative.

The argument that Windows Phone 8 will grow by 71.3% while none of the others grow more than 20% is hard to sell.

Senior research analyst with IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker Kevin Restivo talked about the market through 2016:

“Sluggish economic conditions worldwide have cast a pall over the mobile phone market this year. However, the fourth quarter will be relatively bright due in part to sales of high-profile smartphones, such as the iPhone 5 and Samsung’s Galaxy S3, in addition to lower-cost Android powered smartphones shipped to China and other high-growth emerging markets.”

Inside the Android universe, IDC notes that Samsung is likely to remain the leader in the smartphone segment, although;

“LG Electronics and Sony, both of which cracked the top five smartphone vendors during 3Q12, are not to be overlooked.”

IDC also notes that the iPhone will remain a top player but Apple will have to examine lower-priced options for emerging markets or lose sales to cheaper Android phones that will flood the market.

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