ARM rules the smartphone roost

London, UK – The market for smartphones continues to buck the trend, with shipments growing by 23 percent between 2008 and 2009, according to analyst firm Ovum.

Despite the overall decline in the total mobile phone market, the smartphone sector will carry on expanding at a CAGR of 19.5 percent through to 2014, at which point it will account for 29 percent of the total global handset market.

According to analyst Tim Renowden, GPS and WiFi are hot right now. Of the 77 smartphone models released by key manufacturers in the sample period, 59 had GPS capability and 49 had WiFi, indicating that these technologies are no longer just for high-end models.

“The widespread availability of GPS across all of the major smartphone platforms is great news for developers wishing to deploy location-based applications and services, but so far few developers have taken advantage of this beyond basic navigation products,” he said.

Ovum found much lower penetration for TV-out capability – small surprise, says Renowden, as it is only recently that most platforms have really possessed the multimedia abilities required to justify it. Only the iPhone, Symbian and Windows Mobile platforms produced devices with TV-out, with Samsung in particular being proactive in supporting the feature. Ovum expects TV-out to grow in popularity among media-centric smartphones.

On the processor front, most smartphones are currently based on ARM11 architecture, but Ovum expects some ARM Cortex A8-based chipsets to appear in devices within the next update, and platforms like Qualcomm’s Snapdragon or Nvidia’s Tegra to emerge later in 2009 as manufacturers seek to add greater multimedia functionality to devices. Devices based on the ARM Cortex A9 multi-core architecture are expected in 2010.

Only around 10 percent of smartphones support Internet widget frameworks. “This is another area where we expect rapid growth in adoption through 2009/10,” says Renowden.

Rich Internet Applications (RIAs) have also made little impact so far. Adobe’s Flash and Flash Lite have achieved the best penetration, with 41 smartphone models – mostly Symbian-based – supporting Flash. Windows Mobile has patchy support for Flash, and iPhone OS and Android currently don’t support it at all. For Adobe AIR and Microsoft Silverlight, penetration is zero.

Despite the hype over on-device app stores, very few phones were released with pre-installed app store clients. Apple’s iPhone, HTC’s Android devices and several Nokia handsets – featuring Nokia’s Download! client, not the newer Ovi Store – were the only examples.

“We expect a big change in this area in the next version of the smartphone tracker, as platform owners and manufacturers have now begun to respond in earnest to the app store buzz,” said Renowden. “On-device app stores have launched on BlackBerry and Palm’s WebOS, Nokia now has Ovi Store, Windows Mobile 6.5 will feature an app store, and a greater proportion of new handsets will feature these clients in the next version of the tracker.”