Smartphone sales top 1B in 2014 for first time as mobile becomes ‘the’ screen

Latin America and emerging markets in APAC saw the largest increase in smartphones sales in 2014, with both regions seeing sales pop more than 55% over 2013. The two were the leading edge of a 23% surge in smartphone sales that topped 1 billion units worldwide for the first time; researcher GfK reported global sales tallied 1.2 billion.

And, although growth looks to slow somewhat in 2015, the firm forecasts another 1.38 billion units will be sold, an increase of 14%.

GfK said China had the highest volume of sales with 393 million smartphones being purchased in 2014, a 9% increase from 2013. North America saw sales near 178 million, up 28%, largely driven by the introduction of Apple’s iPhone 6, emerging APAC nations saw sales of 150 million units, a 55% increase, Middle East & Africa sales topped 135 million, up 35%, Western Europe reached 128 million, up 11%, LatAm neared 110 million, a 59% jump, and Central & Eastern Europe hit 70 million, up 37%.

Only developed APAC countries showed a decline in growth of smartphone sales, with 65 million units sold, a decline of 5% from 68 million a year earlier.

GfK said slowing sales were the result of mature markets reaching a saturation point.

But, the researcher predicted sales in emerging markets – driven by ever falling prices for the devices – would continue to surge, adding that in more developed markets sales would be driven by screen sizes continuing to grow.

“We forecast emerging regions to drive growth in 2015 as smartphones further penetrate lower price points,” said Kevin Walsh, a trends analyst director with GfK. “…Cheaper smartphones priced below ($100-$150) will gain share.”

Walsh also pointed out that larger screens – those of 5 inches or more – saw growth in excess of 180% in 2014, a trend he expects will continue.

What does mobile growth mean for video?

There’s simply no other technology that’s having as much impact on the video marketplace as is mobile. Media companies, brands and related technology companies are scrambling to make sure they can deliver high-quality video experiences to users on mobile devices.

Visa CMO Antonio Lucio, during a presentation at Digital Entertainment World last week, said that marketers and brands need to be aware that an increasing number of users see mobile as their primary screen, spending more time with it than any other screen in their homes.

“Mobile is it,” Lucio said about where ad spending is headed. “If there’s going to be one screen, it’s mobile.”

In developed market, he noted, mobile “will be the screen we are going to engage for everything.”

And, in emerging markets it likely is the only screen – in many instances – that consumers spend time with.

“We have to stop thinking of it as a channel,” Lucio said.

Stay tuned.

Jim O’Neill is Editor of Videomind and Principal Analyst at Brightcove. You can follow him on Twitter @JimONeillMedia and on LinkedIn