While prospects for the overall mobile handset market remain gloomy, smartphones remain a bright spot with global unit growth as high as 11.1 per cent in 2009, according to iSuppli.

The analysts’ optimistic forecast for global smartphone unit shipments translates into 192.3 million units in 2009, up from 173.6 million in 2008.

A more pessimistic outlook calls for growth of only 6 per cent this year, reaching 183.9 million units.

Tina Teng, senior analyst for wireless communications for iSuppli, stressed that for the optimistic scenario to come to fruition, wireless network operators had to cut fees for data services and offer aggressive subsidies to reduce consumer smart phone prices.

"Furthermore, wireless operators and handset brands have to sell consumers on the value of smartphones to encourage customers to upgrade," she said.

However, if consumer confidence continues to erode, iSuppli’s pessimistic forecast is likely to prevail, Teng warned.

According to the optimistic scenario, smartphones will represent 17.4 per cent of total mobile handset unit shipments in 2009.

If the pessimistic scenario holds sway, smartphones will account for only 16.6 per cent of total mobile handset shipments this year.

The optimistic scenario also foresees a unit shipment Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 21 percent from 2008 to 2013, while the pessimistic view predicts an 18.3 percent growth rate.

Teng said that with 3G networks becoming prevalent around the world, smartphones are now for consumer as well as corporate users.

"Consumers increasingly are demanding data-intensive applications that require the kinds of high data speeds supported by 3G networks," she said.

Subscribe to our Newsletter