With smartphone shipments outstripping those of computers for the first time last year, mobile data service revenues in the U.S. grew 23% to $55 billion, according to the fourth quarter and 2010 report from Chetan Sharma.
The mobile consulting firm expects continued growth in 2011, as smartphones — along with portable devices like tablets and e-readers — outpace PCs in overall revenue, as well as shipments. The proliferation of the connected devices and smartphones will help push mobile data revenue up 22% this year to $67 billion.
While still a small part of the mobile landscape, connected devices were the fastest-growing mobile segment last year, at 55%. As the market widens to more mobile users, the firm expects multi-device or family data plans will begin to be introduced by wireless operators in 2011.
The big loser in the rise of connected devices will be netbooks. “In fact, tablets are starting to eat into the laptop category as well,” noted the latest Chetan Sharma report. Even in the corporate realm, it notes that companies such as General Electric and Mercedes-Benz are starting to give out iPads to employees instead of laptops or netbooks.
Already this year, at CES in January, and the Mobile World Congress in February, scores of new competitors to the Apple tablet have been introduced from manufacturers including Samsung, Motorola and HTC. Nevertheless, the iPad’s domination of the category is expected to continue through 2011 as rivals find it hard to compete with the Apple across price, performance, distribution and brand power, predicts Chetan Sharma. The launch of the iPad 2, expected Wednesday, should also spur renewed consumer enthusiasm for the Apple device.
More broadly, the report also emphasizes the leading role the U.S. now plays in the mobile industry.
With smartphones making up more than half the devices sold in the U.S. last year, and the country poised to overtake Sweden in 2011 as the top nation in mobile data consumptions, the research firm argues that the center of gravity has shifted from Asia and Europe. The report points to the recent alliance between Nokia and Microsoft as further proof.
“It is also indisputable that the deal is a significant win for Microsoft, which has been looking to come back into the game. However, the impact on Nokia remains uncertain. While there were risks with Android, going with Windows Phone 7 is not an assured path to resurrection either,” according to Chetan Sharma, which concluded that the success of the deal will come to down to execution.
The report acknowledges that Android and Apple iOS platforms are completely dominating when it comes to winning mindshare of developers and the mobile ecosystem. But it stopped short of predicting whether Windows Phone 7 will emerge as the legitimate third contender in the smartphone race that operators would like to see.