By 2017, smartphone market size will be directly correlated with population size -- at least when it comes to the top three players in the game. According to a new report from Strategy Analytics, India will unseat the United States as the second largest smartphone market within the next two years, with China remaining the clear leader of the pack. While smartphone penetration in India is currently relatively low, with only 110 to 120 million of the 1.2 billion people in the country able to claim ownership of such a device, forecasters say this will change very quickly in the coming years.
As per the report, in 2015, Indians will buy 118 million smartphones, and by 2017, 174 million phones will be sold over the course of the year. Experts attribute this rise in smartphone popularity with the advent of local Indian smartphone companies like Micromax, which have created affordable mobile devices that have all the bells and whistles of their more expensive, foreign counterparts, but a much less intimidating and more attractive price tag.
The growth in smartphone popularity in India reflects the overall digitization of the country. Last year, India boasted the third-largest number of Internet-equipped inhabitants, with 243 million people online, whereas the U.S. had 279.8 million. Forecasters also predict that this will soon shift, as the U.S. figure reflects 86 percent penetration, and India's number is a measly 19 percent of its population.
Global smartphone usage is also on the rise, with Neil Mawston, Executive Director at Strategy Analytics, noting in the press release, "We forecast global smartphone sales will grow from 1.5 billion units in 2015 to a record 1.7 billion in 2017. China, India, and United States are the big three countries driving smartphone growth worldwide today and in the future." It is unclear as of yet if India will eventually overtake the "maturing" Chinese tech market.
Strategy Analytics Director Linda Sui noted, "China has been the engine of global smartphone growth in recent years, but China is now maturing and slowing. India is fast becoming the next major growth wave … India's growth is being driven by low smartphone penetration, expanding retail availability of devices, wealthier middle-class consumers, and aggressive promotions from local smartphone brands."
Regardless, one thing is clear. As Woody Oh, Director at Strategy Analytics said, "No serious global hardware or software player can afford to ignore the huge Indian smartphone market today."