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If the smartphone market wasn’t big enough already, research firm IHS reckons that global smartphone shipments could reach a massive 1.5 billion by the year 2017. That’s shipments per year by the way, which works out to a new smartphone for every 4.7 people currently living on the planet, which is an astonishing prediction when you think about it.

Anyway, let’s put some more perspective on this figure, by comparing it to expected results for the end of this year. IHS also estimates that worldwide smartphone shipments will reach nearly 900 million units by the end of 2013, so we’re looking at a 66 percent increase in yearly global smartphone shipments over the next four years, according to the research.

IHS also alluded to an interesting point when the firm talked about its predictions for Apple’s iPhone. The company is expecting global iPhone shipments to reach 150 million units this year, up slightly from the 134 million handsets shipped out last year. However, IHS was keen to point out that this figure was essentially flat, suggesting, as many others have, that the high end smartphone market may be nearing saturation.

So if Apple and other high-end manufacturers aren’t going to be able to pull global smartphone shipments towards the 1.5 billion mark, then perhaps we should be looking at low end handsets and new ideas which will bring the rest of the world into the smartphone age. Projects like Firefox OS, and budget handset manufacturers from China could end up making up a much larger portion of the smartphone market in the coming years.

As the global smartphone install base already surpassed the 1 billion milestone last year, perhaps 1.5 billion a year isn’t as far-fetched as it sounds.

Robert Triggs
Lead Technical Writer at Android Authority, covering the latest trends in consumer electronics and hardware. In his spare moments, you'll probably find him tinkering with audio electronics and programming.