That's the level predicted by a research firm, which says the device will reach that point this year -- and stay there. The business market for the handset, though, could help Apple bust through that limit.
One research firm says market share for Apple's iPhone will peak at 22 percent, and that the device will hit that ceiling this year -- with market share then remaining flat.
Despite predictions that half of all handset shipments will be smartphones by 2014, and a steady rise to 2.4 billion shipments by 2014: "Barring an unlikely collapse in Samsung's business, even Apple will be chasing Samsung's technology, software, and device leadership in 2013 through the foreseeable future," says ABI Research Senior Analyst Michael Morgan.
Apple currently holds an 18.5 percent share of the U.S. mobile subscribers market, according to recent ComScore figures. Samsung currently pegs in at 26.9 percent, rising by 1.2 percent in the three months ending with November.
Samsung continues to grow in market share at a steady rate -- occasionally falling by a percentage point here and there -- but Apple continues to, month-on-month, increase its share, and at a faster rate than Samsung.
Samsung has grown significantly in market share since 2010, from mid-single-digit percent through to around 30 percent at its peak, depending on the market share statistics one reads. The reason Samsung has rocketed so far and so quickly is partially thanks to the availability of its less-expensive smartphones that deliver a lower profit margin than Apple's. It's also because Samsung spreads its platform load across the various Android versions, but also Bada, Tizen, and Windows Phone.
Samsung has also invested in newer technologies faster than Apple did in the smartphone space, by including near-field communications (NFC) technology for wireless payments, and 4G LTE networking for next-generation mobile broadband speeds.
But if Apple were to gain further traction in the enterprise market, the Cupertino, Calif.-based technology giant could grab even more of the overall market for smartphones, and even surpass the estimated peak of 22 percent this year.
Apple does not pitch its products to the enterprise, at least on the face of it. The company said on its fiscal third-quarter earnings call that the number of iPhones in the enterprise has doubled, while the number of iPads in the enterprise has tripled. The rate of installing in-house apps, delivered through Apple's B2B application store, continues to increase rapidly.
Whether or not Apple pitches to the enterprise directly, indirectly, willingly, or inadvertently, the enterprise sector is knocking on Apple's door asking to be let in. Forget the BlackBerry, the iPhone is where it's at. Forget Windows on the PC, because businesses are starting to rely on post-PC devices, such as the iPad. Android isn't gaining traction in the enterprise space because Google's fragmentation of the Android ecosystem is making it increasingly difficult for IT managers to secure every single version. iOS has one, consistent version throughout, and benefits from the back-end mobile device management (MDM) enhancements.
If momentum carries on the way it has, and IT budgets stretch that little bit further in order to continue to snap up iPhones for their enterprise workspace, the consumer iPhone saturation point won't matter.
This story originally appeared on ZDNet under the headline "iPhone market share to peak at 22 percent in 2013, says analyst."