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MEA leads smartphone shipment growth in 2015

MEA leads smartphone shipment growth in 2015.

Global smartphone shipments have slowed in 2015, seeing only single-digit growth for the first time. However, the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region is an exception, becoming the highest growth market in the world, according to new research by the International Data Corporation (IDC).

According to a new forecast by IDC, 2015 will prove the first full year to see only single-digit growth in smartphone shipments worldwide, predicted by IDC to slow to only 9.8% growth, with 1.43 billion units shipped worldwide.

This slowing in growth, IDC says, is mostly attributable to slowing growth in the Asia-Pacific region - excluding Japan -, Latin America, and Western Europe; and device-wise, is caused by slowing uptake of "alternative" platforms - defined as phones running operating systems other than Android, iOS, and Windows Phone. This slowed growth, IDC predicts, will intensify over the years to 2019.

However, the MEA region tells a different story, and is predicted to becoming the highest growth market in the world in 2015; IDC saying the region will see up to 50% year-on-year growth.

Like this, the smartphone shipments in the MEA region will surpass what IDC terms "hot growth markets"- like India and Indonesia - in 2015.

A key driver in the MEA's growth is the falling cost of devices, as well as data, IDC said.

"The growth in smartphones in MEA, primarily Africa, is largely being driven by the rapid fall in prices for Android devices, typically those running on the HSPA third generation data standard. With falling prices new brands are entering the market, and big international vendors, notably the main Chinese players, are taking more interest in the region, and this competition is further boosting sales," George Kalebaila, senior research manager for telecommunications and media at IDC South Africa told ITWeb Africa.

"Though relatively expensive compared with other regions of the world, mobile data is becoming more affordable in Africa and a new class of young urban Africans is becoming increasing hooked on mobile communications and entering the smartphone era already so well established in richer countries," Kalebaila said.

In particular, Kalebaila highlighted the role of Nigeria in spurring shipment growth in the MEA region, given the size of the market and subsequent demand stemming from the country.

Despite Africa's reputation as a mobile-first continent, Kalebaila says mobile phone penetration is low continent-wide, paving the way for the impressive growth in device shipments now taking off.

"Specific to African countries, it is not only smartphone penetration but simply mobile penetration that is also quite low to begin with, so those countries will have the highest growth because it's a combination of existing mobile users switching to smartphones as well as users that never had a phone before getting a phone (feature or smart) for the first time.

According to Kalebaila, local trends such as mobile as a favoured banking tool will serve to further spur device uptake on the African continent, and as such the substantial growth rates will continue.

However, he says devices shipped in the region will tend not to be the cutting edge 4G devices, but generally more affordable devices.

"As mobile is an essential way to life there as it's also a major banking and finance tool for them with popularity of mobile banking in that region. IDC expects the current boom to continue as handset prices continue to fall, though a mass shift to fourth generation handsets is still some way off in much of the continent," he said.

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