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4 September 2013
Demand for mobile phones at record high
​GfK findings on the telecommunications market – first half of 2013

Nuremberg, September 4th, 2013 – The global demand for mobile phones has reached a new record high. Never have as many mobile phones been sold worldwide as in the first half of 2013. In particular, the demand for smartphones, which are becoming more and more affordable, is contributing to the rapid growth. Moreover, phones in the mid to high price categories have new premium features. These are GfK’s findings on the telecommunications market, which are published to coincide with the IFA 2013 trade fair in Berlin.

In the period January to June 2013, global demand for smartphones rose by 66 percent compared with the same period in the previous year. At the same time, the market for conventional mobile phones shrank by 25 percent. However, both trends led to an overall increase of 10 percent in total sales volume. Of all mobile end devices sold, 59 percent are smartphones. In 2012, these were still in the minority compared to traditional mobile phones, with a market share of 41 percent.

The trailblazer for this trend is the Chinese market. It grew the fastest, recording a total growth rate of 37 percent. At 85 percent, the share of smartphones as a proportion of all mobile end devices is also the highest in China by global comparison. Western Europe is in second place at 71 percent, while more conventional mobile phones are still being sold in Africa, India and Latin America.

In Western Europe, smartphones have long become firmly established. By the fourth quarter of 2011, the technical all-rounders had outstripped conventional mobile phones in terms of volume sales.

Price portfolio polarized

In the key markets of Western Europe, smartphone market penetration is already relatively advanced. Nevertheless, there are still no signs of a significant price reduction for this popular type of device. The average price level based on non-subsidized selling prices remained largely stable for this device category at around €350. While cheaper smartphones are making advances in the traditional mobile phone segment at the lower end of the price scale, all-rounders with the top features in the upper price segment, i.e. those over the €500 mark, are defending their high level of importance in the market with a share of 30 percent.

Faster, bigger and slimmer

The trends in terms of design and performance of smartphones are clear. Specifically, displays are becoming larger, the casing slimmer and processor power is growing significantly. In Western Europe, the share of devices with a display of at least 4.5 inches grew substantially. In summer 2013, one in four smartphones already had displays of this size, whereas only one in ten devices was equipped with such a screen in summer 2012. Two out of three smartphones now have a slender design. The increasing size of phones is offset by the fact that with a thickness of less than 10 millimeters they no longer appear bulky in a jacket or trouser pocket. A key trend in the second half of 2013 and 2014 will be for “phablets”, a larger category of smartphone with a diagonal screen measurement of up to 7 inches.

In terms of performance, smartphones made significant progress in 2013. As regards memory, processing speed and the capability for NFC (near field communication) data transfer or the new high-speed standard (long term evolution), consumers are being offered a much improved product. Accordingly, almost one in four of smartphones sold in Western Europe in the second quarter of 2013 was LTE-compliant. Last year the market share was still virtually zero.

Trend towards more variety

Differing trends are emerging with regard to the operating systems. On the one hand, Android has significantly extended its leading position as the dominant open operating system. Three out of four smartphones sold in Western Europe are now based on this platform. On the other hand, efforts are being made in many quarters to create more diversity. Along with relaunches of established systems, various activities by new providers are being reported. The effects of this should become apparent in the second half of 2013 in both the entry and up-market price segments.

The variety of smartphones has never been as great as it is at present. From low-priced entry devices to phablets, customers have a broad spectrum of products to choose from. For 2013 as a whole, GfK predicts a 16 percent increase in sales volume in Western Europe to 115 million devices. A sales volume of approximately 950 million devices is forecast globally.

The method

Through its telecommunications retail panel, GfK regularly collects data on mobile and landline phones, tablet computers, mobile broadband sticks, mobile phone accessories, radio devices and telephone tariffs in more than 90 countries worldwide. The present analysis is based on findings on the worldwide development of the mobile communications market for the first half of 2013. For the Western European market, this evaluation is based on findings information from France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK.
For further information contact: Arndt Polifke, +49 911 395-3116 or visit our office at the IFA trade fair in Berlin from 6 September to 11 September 2013 (Grosser Stern, VIP Area 2).

About GfK

GfK is one of the world’s largest research companies, with around 13,000 experts working to discover new insights into the way people live, think and shop, in over 100 markets, every day. GfK is constantly innovating and using the latest technologies and the smartest methodologies to give its clients the clearest understanding of the most important people in the world: their customers. In 2012, GfK’s sales amounted to €1.51 billion.

To find out more, visit www.gfk.com or follow GfK on Twitter: www.twitter.com/gfk_en

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