February 11, 2011, 3:28 PM

Smartphone shipments top PC shipments in Q4 2010

It’s a warning to retailers not yet in mobile commerce.

Lead Photo

The research firm International Data Corporation just issued its “Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker” report, and one big statistic stands out: For the first time, manufacturers shipped more smartphones to merchants than PCs.

Vendors shipped a total of 100.9 million smartphones during the fourth quarter of 2010, up 87.2% from the 53.9 million smartphones shipped during Q4 2009. For the full year, vendors shipped a total of 302.6 million smartphones worldwide, up 74.4% from the 173.5 million smartphones shipped in 2009.

Vendors shipped a total of 92.1 million PCs during the fourth quarter of 2010 (the largest number ever), up a mere 2.7% from Q4 2009. Total shipments for 2010 reached 346.2 million, an increase of 13.6%. So smartphones topped PCs in the fourth quarter of 2010, but PCs had the edge for the year.

But IDC expects further gains for the smartphone market in 2011. “The high end of the market has been important to help grow the smartphone market in recent years,” notes Ramon Llamas, senior research analyst on IDC’s mobile phone technology and trends team. “IDC expects vendors to provide more mid-range and low-end smartphones at lower prices to reach the mass market. In the same manner, even high-end devices will become available at lower prices. This will result in greater competition and more selection for users.”

More and more consumers newly armed with smartphones are using the mobile web and apps, with the expectation that their favorite retailers will have an experience optimized for their smartphones. The smartphone will soon be the dominant computing device. And watch those tablet computer sales figures (20% of U.S. consumers will own tablets by 2014, Harris Interactive says). Retailers are going to see greatly increased traffic from smartphones and tablets in the years ahead, and the smart merchants will get out there now with at least an m-commerce site and gain benefits and make mistakes, and learn from those mistakes.

Research giant The Nielsen Co. says by the end of this year half of all mobile phones in use will be smartphones. The smartphone revolution is here. Prepare yourself.

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