New estimates from Gartner indicate the smartphone market is set for “strong” growth this year, but analysts have warned that Apple’s highly anticipated 10th anniversary iPhone could face delays.
According to Gartner, overall smartphone shipments are expected to grow 5 percent this year to nearly 1.6 billion units as users continue to migrate from “utility” phones to both basic and premium smartphones. But in a market of lengthening device cycles, the firm noted this growth is tied to the release of “new devices that offer something different.”
Gartner Research Director Roberta Cozza said Samsung’s release of the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus earlier this year has had a “strong” impact. However, much is still riding on Apple’s upcoming iPhone launch in the fall.
“Continued premium smartphone growth in 2017 will also be highly dependent on the forthcoming anniversary edition of Apple’s iPhone, which should bring more-drastic feature and design upgrades than the last few iterations,” Cozza commented. “Recent announcements from Apple indicate that some new technologies and functionalities may also appear in the next iPhone in areas like augmented reality and improved machine learning.”
Some other analysts, though, have noted Apple seems to be having difficulty upgrading one other feature: the fingerprint sensor.
Per a report from CNBC, KeyBanc Capital Markets Analyst Andy Hargreaves has warned Apple is still struggling to find a way to embed a fingerprint scanner in the upcoming iPhone 8’s display. The options on the table at this point, he said, are to abandon the idea for this iteration in favor of facial recognition or delay the device’s release until October or even November. Hargreaves deemed it “increasingly likely” Apple will aim for an early launch rather than wait to work out the fingerprint sensor issue.
Premium devices aside, Cozza said the basic smartphone market is expected to continue to flourish, led by a push from Chinese vendors. Shipments of basic smartphones are expected to increase 6.8 percent to 686 million units this year, she indicated. Total mobile phone shipments are forecast to hit 1.9 billion this year – up from 1.89 billion in 2016 – and grow to 1.936 billion in 2018 before dropping slightly to 1.934 billion in 2019, Gartner data shows.