Smartphone sales fell last year in another sign that the market could finally be in decline.
The latest figures from analyst firm IDC found that device shipments were down 0.5 per cent across the world during 2017 – the first such decline since the smartphone became a recognised product.
IDC blamed the decrease on a number of facotrs, including increasing market saturation in China, were sales fell five per cent, but also on the fact that truly unique smartphone design and differentation was rare during 2017.
Overall, 1.46 billion devices were shipped during 2017, the vast majority of which (1.24 billion) ran Google's Android OS. Apple iOS devices made up most of the remainder, with the company seeing a 0.2 per cent growth compared to 2016.
However the firm expects that 2018 will see a return to growth as consumers flock to upgrade to the latest devices after a dispiriting selection last year. IDC is forecasting that continued single-digit growth will push the market to around 1.68 billion units a year by 2022.
The company says it expects 2018 to be the year when phablets out-sell regular smartphones, and that the following year will see the first 5G-ready devices hit the market.
“To keep up with the increasing demand for the new AI, AR/VR, contextually aware, and 5G functionalities headed to the market, we expect growth to come from improvements in overall core functions in the near term," said IDC's Anthony Scarsella.
"Improvements in speed, power, battery life, and general performance will be critical in driving growth at a worldwide level as the smartphone evolves into a true all-in-one tool. Although these types of improvements seem to arrive each year, delivering it more affordably will carry even greater significance to consumers as many highly competitive emerging markets remain crucial in driving growth throughout the forecast period."