The global smartphone growth percentage will drop below double-digits for the first ever full year in 2015, according to market research company International Data Corporation (IDC).

IDC predicts that smartphone shipments will grow just 9.8% globally in 2015 to a total of 14.3 billion units, with no upturn in sight.

The Chinese market has been a significant driver in smartphone growth in the past few years. As China’s untapped millions became mobile, both internet companies and the vendors themselves experienced an intense growth period, which saw companies like Xiaomi and Alipay become household names on the mainland.

The market has since saturated. According to IDC China is now a “replacement” market, meaning that the core group of consumers who previously drove smartphone adoption are already mobile.

“The main driver has been and will continue to be the success of low-cost smartphones in emerging markets,” said IDC program director Ryan Reith.  “This, in turn, will depend on capturing value-oriented first-time smartphone buyers as well as replacement buyers.”

Following the meteoric rise of Xiaomi and Apple within China, two distinct smartphones sales patterns have emerged dominant: the first are the vendors who sell low-end products on a mass scale for a drastically reduced price, including Xiaomi’s Mi series.

The second are those who are tapping the disposable wealth of China’s growing middle class by offering high-end phones, including Apple’s iPhone and Huawei’s Mate S.

Low-cost smartphones will continue to motivate growth, according to the report. They will also continue to drive replacements. The sub-$100 phones deteriorate quicker, which could bring the average replacement cycle to less than two years, according to IDC.

The Android market share is expected to rise a percentage point in 2015, despite the best efforts of alternate platforms including Linux-based Cyanogen and Xiaomi’s own MIUI.

Cate is a tech writer. She worked as a journalist in Australia, Mongolia and Myanmar. You can reach her (in Chinese or English) at: @catecadell or

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1 Comment

  1. “…grow just 9.8% globally in 2015 to a total of 14.3 billion units” – I suspect that there is a decimal place error in that number.

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