The arrival of smartphones ‘en masse’ on the market has demonstrated to what extent the world of information and communication technology has now become virtually synonymous with mobile. And this fusion seems to be intensifying with the rise of tablets.

Sales of Mobiles Surpass Other Connected Devices

The smartphone now dominates sales of connected devices. A presentation by Benedict Evans, a strategy consultant at London-based Enders Analysis, left the audience at the BookExpo America Convention, running from 30 May to I June in New York City, in no doubt of this fact.  In 2012, sales of computers – laptops and desktop PCs – fell slightly, to somewhat fewer than 200 million units. In contrast, smartphone sales have exploded, moving from 300 to over 600 million devices sold between 2011 and 2012. And if you take into account all mobile devices, the figure rises to 1,700 million units. US-based Apple has succeeded in taking a firm grip on the world of mobile, with its smartphones and more recently its tablet devices.

Mobile is “Eating the World”

Projections for 2013 estimate sales of smartphones and tablets together at 1,250 million, compared with just a quarter that number for PCs – forecast to come in this year at 300 million units. These figures can be explained in part by the fact that while consumers tend to replace their computer every four or five years, they currently buy a new mobile device every two or three years. But there has also been a change in usage patterns. Consumers nowadays tend quite simply to prefer mobile devices, which can be carried around easily and are designed for personal use, as opposed to a computer, which is often shared by several people. In addition, mobile devices are geared to the use of apps, APIs and NFC technology, as well as providing access to the Internet. It is also interesting to note that the level of tablet sales is now catching up with laptops –both now boast annual  sales of between 40 and 45 million units – and has already overtaken sales of office PCs , which are struggling to reach 35 million.  Benedict Evans’ bullish conclusion that mobile is “eating the world” is therefore perhaps justified.  

Platform Wars

There is no doubt that Apple and Android (Google) are the players that have taken the firmest foothold in the market, making it less likely that other platforms such as Windows Phone and Blackberry will be bale to challenge. Microsoft seems not to have been able to cope very well with the transition to mobile. The Windows giant, which sold around 90 million connected devices in 2009, will scarcely reach 25 million in 2013, as Apple and South Korean multi Samsung stretch their lead. Of the 120 million tablets sold in 2012, 66 million were Apple iPads and the iPad is the tablet which is most used in all geographic zones – across Europe, Asia and the United States. However, underlined Benedict Evans, “the ecosystem is the key leverage point.” For Apple “the ecosystem is what sells the hardware,” while for Amazon, Google and Facebook, “the experience on the phone is what drives engagement with all their services,” theEnders Analysis consultant told the New York audience.

By Pauline Trassard