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Mobile device manufacturers due to ship 2.6b units by 2016

There's no doubt that the mobile device market is growing and evolving, but just what will it look like three years from now?

According to new data from Canalys, global shipments of notebooks, tablets, smartphones, and feature phones are poised to reach 2.6 billion units by 2016. The overall mobile device market is expected to grow eight per cent annually, the research firm predicted.

Tablets are expected to be the fastest-growing category of the mobile market with an annual growth rate of 35 per cent. Smartphones are projected to follow with an 18 per cent annual growth rate.

At the same time, shipments of other mobile phones and notebook PCs will decline. Smartphones are expected to overtake feature phones for the first time this year, and tablet shipments will exceed that of notebooks by next year, Canalys said.

By 2016, smartphone shipments will be double the 695 million logged in 2012. As for operating systems, Android is projected to peak this year at 71 per cent of shipments, falling to 66 per cent in 2016. Last year, Android nabbed 68 per cent of the smartphone market, followed by iOS at 20 per cent, and BlackBerry at five per cent.

"Just three years ago BlackBerry had more than 20 percent of the global smartphone market," Canalys vice president and principal analyst Chris Jones said in a statement. "While Canalys does not expect BlackBerry to return to that high in the coming years, it does have an opportunity to win back some of the lost customers, especially those that miss the BlackBerry keyboard."

Besides BlackBerry, Microsoft Windows Phone 8 will also pose a challenge to market leaders Android and iOS.

"The launch of Windows 8 will help Windows Phone in the coming years: consumer familiarity with the Live Tiles UI will rise; the cost of Windows 8 PCs will fall; and enterprise adoption of Windows 8 will increase," Pete Cunningham, Canalys principal analyst, said in a statement.

Meanwhile, tablet shipments are expected to reach 384 million units in 2016, the firm said. And 7in models will be most popular this year, making up more than half of tablet shipments. Apple is expected to retain its lead in the tablet market over the next five years, though its share will dip to less than 40 per cent from 57 per cent last year.