Global shipments of smartphones are expected to exceed one billion units for the first time in 2013, according to a report by professional services firm Deloitte. This means that the installed base of all smartphones is likely to be close to two billion by the end of the year.
While usage of the devices will increase, however, there will also be a rise in the number of consumers using them for only basic functions such as voice, text and photos. In 2012, only 79 percent of smartphone owners in the UK used their device to access the Internet.
This is likely to continue in 2013, with Deloitte predicting that hundreds of millions of smartphone owners will not be on a data package. The report predicts that one in five may never or rarely (less than once a week) connect to the Internet in 2013.
Reasons for this basic use of devices include limited functionality of entry-level and second-hand devices, as well as a lack of interest among users in using 'smart' capabilities.
Deloitte also cites the lack of understanding or affordability of data tariffs, and the absence of a cellular or Wi-Fi infrastructure in some parts of the world as reasons for low-level usage.
"Smartphones have been a phenomenal success and are likely to remain so in 2013. However while smartphones' shipments and installed base should continue to grow, they are likely to be used in different ways by different users," the report states.
"Smartphone owners should not be considered homogenous. Even across the same model, usage is likely to vary considerably."
Deloitte said that understanding the diversity of smartphones and smartphone owners is critical to any company attempting a "mobile centric" strategy.
This strategy needs to respect the diversity of the smartphone user base and also acknowledge the reluctance or financial inability of a large number of smartphone owners to use a smartphone for data.
Meanwhile app developers should be careful about where they focus their resources, as owners of entry-level and older smartphones are unlikely to have significant personal budgets set aside for purchasing apps. This may cause their appetite for accessing app stores to diminish, warned Deloitte.
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