While the IDC has been relatively optimistic about the prospects of Windows for tablets, no such recovery is forecast for Windows Phone.
The IDC still expected some slow growth in the smartphone market over the next 4 years, with the market expected to become largely reliant on replacing existing handsets rather than seeking new users.
“Growth in the smartphone market is quickly becoming reliant on replacing existing handsets rather than seeking new users,” said Jitesh Ubrani, senior research analyst with IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Device Trackers. “From a technological standpoint, smartphone innovation seems to be in a lull as consumers are becoming increasingly comfortable with ‘good enough’ smartphones.”
The IDC did see some hope for growth in the new VR market and the desire for larger screened phones.
“As phablets gain in popularity, we expect to see a myriad of vendors further expanding their portfolio of large-screened devices but at more affordable price points compared to market leaders Samsung and Apple,” said Anthony Scarsella, research manager, Mobile Phones. “Over the past two years, high-priced flagship phablets from the likes of Apple, Samsung, and LG have set the bar for power, performance, and design within the phablet category. Looking ahead, we anticipate many new ‘flagship type’ phablets to hit the market from both aspiring and traditional vendors that deliver similar features at considerably lower prices in both developed and emerging markets.”
They did not expect Windows Phone to benefit much from the trend however, saying they anticipated further decline in Windows Phone’s market share. Despite new devices such as the HP Elite X3, they noted that the device (like the OS) remained highly focused on the commercial (business) market. They expected future device launches, whether from Microsoft or its partners, to have a similar target market and only expected 1.7 million Windows Phones to be sold for the whole of 2020 for 0.1% market share.
The expected Android to maintain greater than 85% of the smartphone market. They believed Google’s introduction of Daydream and Project Tango will help usher in new use cases and will help participating hardware vendors to offer differentiated experiences in the premium segment. They expected the release of Nougat and Google’s ongoing ambition to secure Android will help the OS secure a better footing in the commercial segment, narrowing the market for Windows Phone further. Overall they expected Android’s ASP is set to remain flat in 2016 ($217) compared to last year and will decrease to $190 by 2020.
For the iPhone they expected the rumored removal of the headphone jack and the expectation of a significant hardware refresh in 2017 – the tenth anniversary of the iPhone – to result in the first full-year decline in iPhone shipments in 2016. However, the IDC did expect a rebound in 2017 and beyond.
Overall the IDC believed average selling prices (ASPs) for phablets will reach $304 by 2020, down 27% from $419 in 2015, while regular smartphones (5.4 inches and smaller) are expected to drop only 12% ($264 from $232) during the same time frame.”
While the IDC is a very well-respected analyst company they are rather famous for their wrong predictions, particularly regarding Windows Phone. It seems with 4-5 billion people still without smartphones in the market there is still much growth that can be expected, particularly as prices come down significantly, again something which the IDC is not predicting, but which is otherwise extremely likely in the short-term.
These trends are however unlikely to change the fate of Windows Phone, unless it awakes a thirst for a Continuum-style feature, but it seems to me much more likely that well before Windows Phone hits those very low numbers it will no longer be offered in the market.
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