IDC Predicts China Will Become the Biggest Smartphone Market in 2012

By the end of 2012, the International Data Corporation (IDC) predicts China will become the leading market for smartphone shipments, surpassing the current leader, the United States. IDC believes emerging markets will drive smartphone growth around the world, and by 2016, two more such markets -- India and Brazil -- will break into the top 5 country markets for smartphone shipments.

"Due to their sheer size, strong demand, and healthy replacement rates, emerging markets are quickly becoming the engines of the worldwide smartphone market," said Ramon Llamas, senior research analyst with IDC's Mobile Phone Technology and Trends team. "Users in emerging markets seek more than simple voice telephony, and smartphones offer the ideal platform for mobile entertainment, social networking, and business usage as seen in developed markets."

Mature markets like Japan, the United Kingdom, and the U.S. will still see strong smartphone growth, just the volume of shipments won't be able to keep pace with those of emerging markets, particularly China, which has surpassed the U.S. in smartphone shipments for two consecutive quarters in the second half of 2011, IDC says.

According to IDC, price remains a significant barrier for potential smartphone buyers, which is a reason why so many company executives touted the need for low-cost devices at the recent Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Android devices priced below $200 were hot commodities in 2011, but for widespread adoption to occur, pricing needs to approach $50, IDC says.