Will Apple be playing catch-up with Samsung?

Senior ABI Research analyst Michael Morgan believes Apple will ultimately be chasing Samsung’s technology, software and device leadership in 2013 through the foreseeable future.

“Since 2010 Samsung has grown its smartphone market share from 8% to over 30% in 2012; meanwhile Apple’s market share is expected to peak in 2013 at 22%; remaining flat through 2018,” Morgan explained.

“While Samsung’s rise has been on the back of Android, which accounts for 90% of Samsung’s smartphone shipments, the future smartphone OS landscape will likely be heavily influenced by the importance Samsung places on the elements of its OS portfolio of Bada, Tizen, Windows Phone, and Android.”

Meanwhile, senior ABI Research practice director Jeff Orr noted that just as handset OEM focus has driven the success of the Android ecosystem, LTE smartphones and handsets will also experience a rapid increase in shipment penetration as handset OEMs fight to keep their handsets relevant to mobile operators.

Indeed, as LTE handsets commonly feature the latest in screen and application processor technologies, LTE handsets will also benefit from the demand of handset owners looking to acquire a premium smartphone regardless of its WWAN connectivity.

“With the successful launch of the iPhone 5 and competing LTE handsets from other leading OEMs, LTE handsets will be found in the hands of many consumers who do not even have access to LTE networks,” said Orr.

“Apple is demonstrating to the market that LTE is not the only reason to buy a premium handset.”

In related mobile news, ABI Research says it expects smartphone shipments to account for nearly 50% of all handset shipments by 2014, while remaining on track to becoming the largest handset segment in the world.

To be sure, by 2018, 2.4 billion handset shipments with smartphones will account for 69% of all handset shipments, while LTE handsets are likely to comprise approximately 35% of all handset shipments and 50% of smartphone shipments in 2018.

“While LTE will be the fastest-growing WWAN technology in history, the growth in smartphone shipment penetration will be driven by the rapidly growing low-cost smartphone segment. [We] forecast that smartphones with wholesale ASPs under $250 will account for 62% of smartphone shipments by 2018,” added Orr.