Apple's iPhone will reach its highest percentage of the worldwide smartphone market this year, said ABI Research Thursday. Once it hits 22%, or just over one-in-five smartphones, it will level off and remain relatively flat for the next five years.
Apple will play second fiddle to Samsung, which has already surpassed it (and everyone else) in global sales. ABI believes Samsung will remain the worldwide leader for some time. Samsung's share of the smartphone market surged from 8% in 2010 to more than 30% in 2012.
"Barring an unlikely collapse in Samsung's business, even Apple will be chasing Samsung's technology, software and device leadership in 2013 through the foreseeable future," said senior analyst Michael Morgan.
[ To boost its market share, Apple Needs More Than One iPhone To Compete. ]
Though Google's Android operating system is largely responsible for Samsung's market success, ABI believes Samsung's future depends on other, lesser operating systems. Bada, Tizen and Windows Phone will all play a particularly important role as alternatives to Android and iOS in emerging markets where smartphones have yet to catch on.
Though smartphones already account for more than half of all smartphone purchases in the U.S., they haven't quite reached that level worldwide. ABI believes smartphones won't surpass the 50% mark until 2014. By 2018, ABI forecasts that smartphones will make up 69% of the 2.4 billion annual device sales.
ABI also looked at LTE 4G and where it fits within the cell phone and smartphone space. It believes LTE will play an important role in pushing smartphone adoption. It suggests that LTE will be in 35% of all handsets by 2018, but 50% of all smartphones by 2018. In the U.S., few new smartphones are shipped without LTE support. Nearly all the devices available from AT&T and Verizon Wireless, for example, include LTE. The proliferation of LTE worldwide hasn't been as quick as in the U.S. thanks to varied and incompatible spectrum frequencies.
"With the successful launch of the iPhone 5 and competing LTE handsets from other leading OEMs, LTE handsets will be found in the hands of many consumers who do not even have access to LTE networks," said senior practice director Jeff Orr. "Apple is demonstrating to the market that LTE is not the only reason to buy a premium handset."