2012 to become emerging market smartphone battleground

GfK Boutique Research business director Steve Bambridge took to the stage with the Consumer Electronic Assocation’s Steve Koenig to reassure the world that the consumer technology industry is doing quite well. Overall growth is slowing following 2011’s devices boom, but not in emerging markets.

Before the event opened its doors officially, the two told a number of hacks that global technology device spending will race past the $1 trillion mark over the course of this year. Despite the downturn, the growth on consumer electronics sales is steady – in 2010 it was 12 percent, in 2011 it was eight percent.

Forbes blogger Eric Savitz said the biggest growth over 2011 in consumer devices were tablets, up 222 percent on the previous year. Smartphone spending was up 58 percent, though other mobile computing was just up six percent. While the world swallows its tablets, they and smartphones are draining growth from elsewhere.

The boom will slow over 2012, the spokespeople agreed. Tablet growth is forecast for 59 percent and smartphones are penned in at 22 percent. Other markets will see small, stagnant or even negative growth, signifying a continued trend in all-in-one consumer technology taking the lion’s share of user interest.

Bambridge and Koenig agreed that in 2012, the most enticing margins will be for smartphones in emerging markets.

The doors will swing open for companies to take advantage of the low-end segment, with cheap smartphones expected to account for 81 percent of total smartphone growth in 2012.

It is likely to be a bloodbath between two of China’s biggest players, both already entrenched in aggressive rapid-growth strategies, ZTE and Huawei. ZTE says it wants to establish itself in the high-end market soon, too.

With the proliferation of smartphones in emerging markets, there are major opportunities for the chip industry. Intel realises this and so does Qualcomm, both of which are keen to invest in China and elsewhere. Nokia is still confident its feature phones will keep selling.