More than 1 billion 4G (LTE) smartphones will be shipped in 2016, as emerging markets start to catch-up in embracing the high-speed network technology, according to research firm IDC.
The company said that growth of 21.3 per cent year-on-year will take volumes to 1.17 billion, from 967 million in 2015. For emerging markets (defined as Asia Pacific excluding Japan, Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe, and Middle East and Africa), 4G smartphones will make up 77 per cent of the total, up from 61 per cent in 2015 (and compared with 94 per cent and 85 per cent, respectively, in developed markets).
“It’s been a long slog for 4G uptake in many emerging markets as 4G data tariffs have long been very expensive compared with 3G, while 4G handsets themselves have also been relatively pricey across the board. We are quickly seeing this change in key growth markets like India, where new operator Reliance Jio is aggressively trying to shake-up the market by handing out free 4G SIM cards and launching own-branded low-cost 4G-enabled smartphones,” Melissa Chau, associate research director, said.
In total, 1.45 billion smartphones are expected to ship this year, up 0.6 per cent compared with 2015 (with the growth rate slowing from 10.4 per cent for last year).
IDC also noted Google’s refreshed smartphone efforts in 2016 with its Pixel line, while acknowledging that “early supply chain indications are that volumes are not at the point where Samsung or Apple should see a significant impact for Q4”.
Ryan Reith, programme VP, said: “Of course, as we head in to 2017 this can change, but many eyes will be on Google to see how serious they are about pursing the hardware play.”