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Report: Windows Phone eats up market share as global smartphone sales stutter

The great smartphone rush of the early 2010s appears to be coming to an end. According to IDC's latest mobile data, shipments are expected to slow to 8.3 per cent annual growth in 2017, and fall even lower in the year after.

It's already beginning, as IDC predicts markets like North America and Europe will drop into single digits; even Japan may dip slightly.

With more than 200 million smartphones already in active use in the US —plus the handful of feature phones still floating around—it appears most people have already chosen their preferred device. With that in mind, IDC program director Ryan Reith announced that 2014 will "be an enormous transition year" for the smartphone market.

"Not only will growth decline more than ever before, but the driving forces behind smartphone adoption are changing," he said in a statement. "New markets for growth bring different rules to play by and 'premium' will not be a major factor in the regions driving overall market growth."

But cheap phones will be. According to IDC, this saturation will force service providers and manufacturers to cut prices just to turn a profit. In fact, worldwide smartphone average selling price was $335 (£201) in 2013; it is expected to drop to $260 (£156) by 2018.

Last year, IDC reported 322.5 million smartphone shipments for under $150 (£90), "and that number will continue to grow going forward," said Ramon Llamas, IDC mobile phone research manager, who added that many sellers are already dropping prices.

"Not all vendors will want to get into this space, but those that do must make deliberate choices about their strategies in order to succeed," Llamas said.

A decelerating market won't change the OS war between Android and iOS, which will continue duking it out for the number one position. Thanks to Apple's focus on producing high-end, high-priced devices, Google's Android will maintain its lead, with the promise of attainable prices and a wide range of options.

Underdog Windows Phone, meanwhile, has been tapped to make the fastest growth among all three, with the help of Nokia and other new Windows Phone partners.

IDC had little to say about BlackBerry's future, arguing that it will face stiff competition in the enterprise market and could be hurt by its higher-than-average prices compared to other platforms.