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Worldwide smartphone shipments rose 2.5 percent in 2016, the lowest year-over-year growth rate ever recorded by IDC. This year, however, things are looking up.
The analyst firm expects shipments to rise 4.2 percent in 2017, reaching 1.53 billion units, and another 4.4 percent in 2018. By 2021, vendors are expected to pump 1.77 billion smartphones into the market.
After experiencing the first yearly decline in iPhone shipments last year (a 7 percent drop), Apple may stage the biggest turnaround in 2017 by shipping nearly five percent more iPhones. Naturally, all eyes will be on the Cupertino, Calif. tech titan as it celebrates a major milestone later this year.
"IDC expects a strong rebound in iPhone volumes in 2017 following the launch of its next set of devices with many rumored technical changes as well as a strong push for the 10th anniversary," said the technology research firm in a March 1 media advisory.
On the Android side of the fence, growing interest in mobile augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) experience will help stave off significant declines. Windows-based smartphones will remain the smallest of blips on the radar, given the lack of OEM support for Microsoft's mobile platform, IDC predicted.
Meanwhile, large-screen smartphones, or "phablets" as they are often called, will add some spark to the market.
"Phablets will undoubtedly be the main force driving the market forward thanks to an abundance of feature-rich devices in both the premium and entry-level segments. Total phablet shipments worldwide are expected to reach just under 680 million units by 2021, resulting in a compound annual growth rate of 9.2 percent for [the 2016–2021 forecast period]," said IDC research manager Anthony Scarsella in a statement.
"In comparison, regular smartphones will grow at a rate of just 1.1 percent during the same period, proving perhaps that bigger may be better, or at least more popular when it comes to smartphones," Scarsella continued.
Bigger is indeed better among Android smartphone vendors. Devices with screen sizes of five inches or more will constitute a whopping 91 percent of all Android shipments by 2021, up from 75 percent last year. Last year, phablet adoption outpaced the overall market, with consumers in both developed and emerging markets increased demand by 49 percent compared to 2015.
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Datamation. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.