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Don't expect much change in the smartphone market

What will the smartphone pie look like for Google's Android and Apple's iOS in 2019? Pretty much the same as today, says research firm IDC.

Android shipments are set to slow over the coming years. CNET

The worldwide smartphone market in 2019 is expected to look awfully similar to today's smartphone market.

By the end of 2015, total smartphone shipments will hit 1.4 billion, according to new data from research firm IDC. Google's Android operating system will account for 1.15 billion shipments, nabbing 79.4 percent of the worldwide smartphone market. Apple's iOS will come in second place at 237 million shipments and 16.4 percent market share. Microsoft's Windows Phone will only muster 46.8 million shipments and 3.2 percent market, said IDC .

Although iOS and Windows Phone will see their shipments jump considerably this year -- 23 percent and 34.1 percent, respectively -- not much is going to change in the marketplace over the next four years. By the end of 2019, Android will still own 79 percent of the worldwide smartphone market, followed by 14.2 percent for iOS and 5.4 percent for Windows Phone, said IDC.

The data shows how difficult it can be for any company to compete with Google's Android platform. A slew of vendors around the world, including HTC, Samsung, LG, Huawei, Xiaomi and countless others, all use Android to power their devices. The benefits to Android vendors are myriad, but chief among them is the ability to focus on hardware design and leave Google to worry about software updates, managing an operating system and attracting developers to an application marketplace.

Google will take on that charge at its I/O developer conference later this week. While the company is expected to use the event to showcase the next version of Android, code named Android M, Google will also hold sessions for its developers to learn more about creating apps for its many platforms, including Android and Chrome OS. For Android handset vendors, there's also an ancillary benefit to the conference: Google shines a light on Android, boosting interest in the operating system and thus, devices running it. There's a possibility that some new Android devices could be shown off at I/O later this week.

For Apple, competing with Android for operating system dominance means little to nothing. While Google tries to woo vendors and get Android on as many devices as possible, Apple keeps its operating system to its line of iPhones and iPads. For Apple, the value is in selling hardware.

Apple's decision to debut larger-screen iPhones last September proved to be a good idea for its hardware business, according to IDC. Apple's 23 percent year-over-year shipment gain will be due in large part to the 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch screens on its iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, IDC said. What's more, if Apple continues to offer devices with larger screen sizes, the research firm believes Apple's year-over-year sales gains will outpace the entire market.

"IDC believes a sizable portion of the Android installed base were those who migrated over to the platform from iOS with the desire for a larger screen smartphone," IDC program director Ryan Reith said in a statement. "This is an opportunity Apple is no question focusing on."

While Apple's shipments will grow over the next four years, the worldwide smartphone market will start to see shipments slow. IDC reported that total smartphone shipments will be up 11.3 percent in 2015, down from a 27.6 percent growth rate in 2014. By 2019, the market's growth rate will hit just 5.1 percent, and over a five-year period, the average growth rate will be 8.2 percent.

IDC said the slowdown is due in part to China. The market was, over the last few years, a major driver for smartphone growth as consumers were buying their first devices. As smartphones have started to saturate the market, shipments will start to fall. Indeed, IDC predicts that China's smartphone shipments will be up just 2.5 percent this year, adding that "the largest market in the world has reached a level of maturity where rapid growth will be harder to achieve."

Those issues in China are expected to have negative implications on Android, IDC said. Google's platform has relied on China to be a major growth driver for shipments. As China slows down, Android shipments will follow.

"This has implications for Android because China has been a critical market for Android smartphone shipments in recent years, accounting for 36 percent of total volume in 2014," Reith said.

Regardless, better times appear to be ahead for hardware vendors. By 2019, IDC said worldwide smartphone shipments are forecast to reach 1.9 billion. That breaks down to 1.5 billion Android devices, 274.5 million iOS devices, and 103.5 Windows Phone devices, according to IDC.

Neither Apple nor Google immediately responded to a request for comment.