BlackBerrys and Apple (AAPL) iPhones may be gracing the pockets of the relative few today but the market for high-end mobiles is set for serious expansion thanks to the popularity of web 2.0 web apps like Facebook and Twitter.
A report by Juniper Research is predicting annual sales of smartphones will swell to 300 million by 2013 – up from about 153 million last year, a rise of around 95 per cent.
By 2013, the analyst believes 23 per cent of all new mobile phones will be smartphones – up from 13 per cent in 2008.
The figures stand in stark contrast to overall mobile shipments, which grew by only five to six per cent at best in 2008, and manufacturers are forecasting a decline of up to 10 per cent or more in 2009. With this in mind, vendors are increasingly eyeing up service provision – from the likes of music libraries to location-based social networking – to create new revenue.
Rising demand for "complex web 2.0-centric applications" is also broadening the appeal of smartphones and attracting prospective users into the mass market.
Juniper report author Andrew Kitson said smartphones are well on the way to becoming "internet-centric, highly personalised mobile computers", and software and content – not hardware – are therefore the key smartphone battlegrounds in the years ahead.
However the iPhone and its ilk are not the only gadgets on the block capable of fulfilling consumer thirst for Facebook on the go. Mini laptops – aka netbooks – have emerged in recent years as an alternative mobile internet device and shipments are set for massive growth over the next five years.
A recent report by analyst house ABI Research forecasts netbook shipments will rise to 139 million in 2013, up from almost 35 million in 2009 – an increase of nearly 400 per cent.
While there will still be almost double the amount of smartphones as netbooks in the market by 2013, mini laptops are the new kids on the block – with a growth rate to prove it.
ABI Research practice director, Kevin Burden, said in a statement: "Smartphones did a lot to raise our comfort level with mobile technology as well as our expectations for how connected we could be and how accessible information and data should be while on the road. Enter the netbook with its lightweight, medium-sized form factor and low-cost processors leading to moderate overall price points may finally have 'right-sized' mobile technology for productive travels."
"In recent years, the industry still expected the smartphones to be more than they turned out to be, and most recently, MIDs [mobile internet devices] were thought to be the next big mobile devices segment but an unclear usage model continues to confuse the market. So today, netbooks' time has come, and ABI research expects them to enjoy very strong market growth," he added.