Is the Smartphone Market Hitting a Plateau?

By Kimberlee Morrison Comment

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Over the last couple years, an explosion in smartphones and other mobile devices has caused a worldwide boom in internet use. The boom in internet-connected devices has also resulted in accelerated social media adoption around the world. However, the smartphone and mobile market seem to be reaching a saturation point and growth is starting to plateau.

According to a report from the International Data Corporation, 2015 was the first year of single digit growth in the smartphone market. Growth is expected to slow even further in Europe, Asia/Pacific, and Latin America, and will likely continue through 2019. China, a focal point of the growing smartphone market, will likely slow to low single digits, in part because it has become a replacement market, according to IDC.

Perhaps the most heavily impacted this year were mobile devices with Windows operating systems. Their year-over-year usage rate has declined precipitously (at a loss of 10.6 percent), and other systems not running Android or iOS are expected to shrink to even more. It seems, the market is becoming increasingly homogenized.

Saturation is not hard to see in Europe. While phablets and other devices may be growing, some markets are seeing market penetration as high as 150 percent, and growth can’t continue indefinitely at that rate.

However, there is some positive news: IDC predicts shipment rates to increase by 50 percent year-over-year for the Middle East and African markets.

This level of access, and a general shift in focus away from western countries and into emerging markets could change the priorities of manufacturers as well as social sites. Emerging markets could have very different demands from their smartphones, including simpler phones, and slower  internet speeds could lead to social monopolies.

New internet users are coming online every day, and when their first experience is a seamless smartphone experience, they will likely pick up tools very quickly. Pushing into these markets now, as a social provider, will likely give your site a leg up. Facebook has been pushing hard to expand the internet worldwide through Internet.org, so focusing on the future of the internet could be the key to long term, sustainable growth among digital and social businesses.

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