It seems as though the mobile phone market isn't impervious after all, according to International Data Corporation. While the market is expected to grow a little more than 4 percent year over year in 2012, this will be its lowest annual growth rate since 2009.
Overall, vendors are expected to ship a total of almost 1.8 billion mobile phones worldwide, compared to 1.7 billion in 2011, while IDC forecasts suggests 2.3 billion will be shipped in 2016.
The slowed growth in the overall mobile market is mostly due to a projected 10-percent decline in feature phone shipments this year, with many owners likely to hold on to their "talk and text" devices in uncertain economic times.
However, feature phones will still comprise 61.6 percent of the market this year.
In contrast, the smartphone market is likely to offset the feature phone decline with shipments forecasted to grow 38.8 percent year over year to 686 million units this year. The demand for smartphones will remain high due to high carrier subsidies, lower average smartphone prices and lowered data plan costs.
"The smartphone parade won't be as lively this year as it has been in past," said Kevin Restivo, senior research analyst with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone (News - Alert) Tracker. "The mobile phone user transition from feature phones to smartphones will continue in a gradual but unabated fashion. Smartphone growth, however, will increasingly be driven by a triumvirate of smartphone operating systems, namely Android (News - Alert), iOS and Windows Phone 7."
Android is predicted to remain in top market position through until 2016, though its share is forecasted to peak this year. Share and growth are predicted to be mostly driven by the popularity of Samsung (News - Alert) devices, like the Samsung Galaxy S III, set to be released in North America at the end of the month.
Apple's iPhone (News - Alert) will continue to do well worldwide, thanks to strong momentum in North America, Western Europe and Asia/Pacific this year. Market share for iOS is expected to grow marginally over the next five years, with emerging market growth expected to be the most important to Apple's mobile sales.
Windows Phone is expected to gain traction by 2016, actually forecasted to top iOS market share by that time. This will likely be aided by Nokia's (News - Alert) stellar devices, like the Lumia 900, as well as the company's experience in emerging markets.
Lastly, there will continue to be a place in the market for BlackBerry devices, though it is predicted to be a small one at a mere 5.9 percent of the market come 2016.