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New devices defy general slowdown in handset sales

One billion to own smartphones by 2013

Over a billion people will own a smartphone by 2013, research has found.

According to a new report by Futuresource Consulting, mobile phone ownership reached over four billion users last year – around 60 per cent of the world’s population.

Despite handset sales slowing as a whole, researchers found that smartphone sales are rising fast, with forecasts estimating a 17 per cent share of the market in last year.

Futuresource estimates that this figure will continue to rise in the coming years, with in excess of one billion people owning a smartphone by 2013.

However, the report suggests that consumers are still purchasing other handheld devices, despite smartphones’ multifunctionality. Standalone cameras, sat nav systems, mp3 players and handheld games consoles are still popular.

“Right now, the functionality and quality of dedicated products can far exceed that of multi-function gadgets,” said David Luu, a senior market analyst at Futuresource. “Features like optical zoom and image stabilisation in cameras or embedded maps in personal navigation devices are seen as key value-add differentiators, and still drive consumers to make that purchase. However, it won’t be long before the continued rise of the smartphone will have a major impact on the handheld device landscape.

According to the research, dedicated devices will be increasingly differentiated by their form factor and unique attributes, such as the use of e-ink in e-book readers.

“The iPhone raised the bar in terms of smartphone impact, especially for media players and casual gaming,” Luu said. “Continued smartphone development and the trend towards cloud computing may also start to nibble away at the laptop and netbook market, but it’s unlikely we’ll see any impact here for three to four years at least.

"Inherent limitations for the smartphone are screen size, lack of full size keyboard, storage shortfalls and battery life, which is why consumers see computers as essential products to own today. Shorter term we’re going to experience the rise of the apps market, which many see as a new gold rush, especially for games and amusement.”

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