Mobile Devices To Outnumber Global Population By 2017

The mobile device market is growing at a frantic pace and it won't be long before these digital gadgets outnumber the human population. By the end of 2013, there will be 5.9 billion mobile phones and tablets in use, according to CCS Insight's new market forecast. That's not enough to eclipse the human race, which currently sits at about 7.09 billion strong, but by the end of 2017, combined mobile devices will skip ahead of the human population in number.

Mobile phones alone will number 6.6 billion units by the end of 2017, two-thirds of which will be smartphones. At present, mobile phone sales are nearly split right down the middle between smartphones (53 percent) and feature phones. Smartphones have the slight edge, exceeding "dumb" phone shipments for the first time ever during the first three months of 2013.

All of this is good news for both Google (Android) and Apple (iOS), though neither company can afford to be complacent.

"Having defined the modern smartphone era, Apple is struggling to keep up with overall smartphone market growth, particularly as that growth shifts toward emerging markets. Apple will have to choose between sustaining its profit margin and holding onto market share," said Marina Koytcheva, director of forecasting at CCS Insight. "Android on the other hand is highly dependent on Samsung. As profit margins are squeezed Google will need to ensure Android remains a viable choice for other phone-makers."

Looking ahead, CCS Insight believes mobile device makers will have to shift their focus to emerging markets. Though smartphones have enjoyed "blisteringly fast growth" in Western Europe and North America, penetration levels are quickly approaching a saturation point in these market areas.