Shipments of sub-$250 smartphones will grow from 259 million in 2013 to 788 million in 2018, as such devices “become the tool for operators seeking to drive increased data revenue”, according to ABI Research.
The company said that over the same timeframe, volumes of mid- (sub $400) and high- cost devices are forecast to grow from 635 million to 925 million.
At the end of the forecast period, low-cost devices will make up 46 per cent of smartphone shipments, up from 28 per cent in 2012.
The take-up of smartphones in prepaid and emerging markets will be the primary driver of low-cost smartphone growth, the company said. And in developed and subsidised markets, cheap smartphones can capture customers who have yet to shift to smartphones, while minimising the margin impact of subsidising high-cost devices.
ABI said that more expensive devices will continue to play an important role for operators looking to provide customers with high-spec devices, noting that “premium smartphones tend to carry the most advanced wireless connectivity and operators who are upgrading their network want to ensure that the handsets running on their network can deliver the best possible experience and customer satisfaction”.
Jeff Orr, senior practice director with ABI, said: “As smartphone penetration moves from early adopters to mass-market and laggard consumer segments, the smartphone as a product will be less dependent on technical superiority, and more dependent on reliability and value.”