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Despite Slowing, 1.44 Billion Smartphones Shipped

Smartphone sales across the globe may be slowing down but unit shipments will continue to grow, according to the latest quarterly report from the International Data Corporation.

The IDC Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker report predicts that shipments will increase by 10.4 percent in 2015 to 1.44 billion units, a slightly lower figure than projections from previous quarters. IDC revised its expected year-to-year growth forecast to 10.4 percent from 11.3 percent. The decline reflects both the fragmented smartphone market across North America, Western Europe and China and the drop in average selling prices in developed retail sectors, although the IDC says that global shipments will reach 1.9 billion units by 2019.

Android still remains the dominant smartphone operating system, taking an 81.1 percent market share while Apple's generations of iPhones account for 15.6 percent of shipments. Microsoft's Windows Phone is the only other device that even comes close to making an impact, although with only 2.6 percent of global market share the IDC considers it a marginal challenger at best.

It should be noted that shipments don't equate to sales and the IDC report notes that ownership is likely to level off in the near future, especially in developed markets that are already saturated with devices. Consumers in less developed countries are price sensitive and manufacturers are increasingly aware that providing low-end smartphone models will increase penetration and user adoption. Hence you see the low-cost programs like Android One from Google and the Moto G smartphone line from Motorola/Lenovo.

New markets will determine continued growth
Despite a slowing economy, China is still considered to be a critical barometer for smartphone growth. In 2014, it was responsible for 32.3 percent of all new shipments, the report said, and while growth in China is only predicted to be 1.2 percent in 2015, there is no doubt that it remains a major contributor to overall volumes.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has spoken publicly about the importance of China in terms of smartphone and mobile device growth and, as cited by the BBC, recently emailed CNBC's Jim Kramer—the host of Mad Money—about the "unprecedented opportunity" that the country would afford in the long term. Apple products are popular in China, especially among the middle classes, but the IDC report says that the Indian sub-continent is worthy of increased consideration.

According to IDC program director Ryan Reith, China's position as a leading consumer of smartphones will come under increased pressure from India as more vendors introduce cheaper versions of leading phones into the country.

In a press release, he said:

China clearly remains a very important market. However, the focus will be more on exports than consumption as domestic growth slows significantly. India has captured a lot of the attention that China previously received and it's now the market with the most potential upside. The interesting thing to watch will be the possibility of manufacturing moving from China and Vietnam over to India. We've begun to see this move as a means to cut costs and capitalize on financial benefits associated with localized India manufacturing. It is the local vendors like Micromax, Lava and Intex that will feel the most pressure from international competition within its market.

In terms of devices, the trend for larger screens will continue to drive sales and shipment volumes. Both Apple and Samsung have new phablets launching in the fall and there is expected to be high demand for these models. Shipments of smartphones with display screens measuring 5.5 inches to 6 inches are predicted to increase by 84 percent in 2015, with phablets accounting for over 71 percent of all shipments by 2019.

This article originally appeared on Applause.