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Over 2 billion smartphones will circulate in 2016, report predicts

In 2018, the devices will cross another threshold when more than half of all mobile phones worldwide will be smartphones -- up from 38 percent this year.


The popularity of smartphones will continue to stair-step until they account for the majority of mobile phones worldwide in 2018, according to a new report from research firm eMarketer.

In 2016, 2.16 billion smartphones will be in use worldwide, marking the first time the devices have crossed the 2 billion milestone. By contrast, 1.3 billion smartphones were in use last year and 1.6 billion this year, according to eMarketer.

Perhaps more significantly, by the end of 2018, 51.7 percent of all mobile phones in use will be smartphones. That will be the first year that smartphones outpace phones sans operating systems.

"Feature phones will have finally become a minority in the telecommunications world, " eMarketer said Thursday.

That smartphones will officially overtake their more-basic counterparts is no small feat. For years, feature phones have been the most popular because of their affordability. Consumers in emerging markets around the world have also found it difficult to connect to the Internet, making a smartphone, which includes a Web browser, e-mail access and apps, an impractical expense.

According to eMarketer, however, the scene is changing. Internet access is becoming more ubiquitous in emerging markets. At the same time, smartphone prices are starting to inch down.

Not surprisingly, China will be a major driver in the growth of smartphone adoption. The country is already leading the world in total smartphone users with nearly 520 million. In 2018, eMarketer anticipates China having 704.1 million smartphone users.

The US, which is currently in second place with 165.3 million smartphone users, will drop to third place behind India. India, which had just 76 million smartphone users in 2013, will see that figure soar to 279.2 million in 2018, according to eMarketer's predictions.