smartphone researchSmartphone shipments will reach 567 million in 2012, and double by 2016, according to the latest research from NPD DisplaySearch. The fast pace of new model introductions, such as the much-anticipated iPhone 5, will continue, fueling the increase.

Nonetheless, the actual volume of new smartphone shipments is lower than had been expected. NPD DisplaySearch lowered its 2012 forecast for new purchases from 220 million-230 million to 177 million. The volume of replacement phone purchases is expected to rise, however, as new models enter the market. Also having an impact is the timing of mobile phone contracts.

In an effort to boost sales, smartphone manufacturers are likely to shorten mobile phone replacement cycles, according to NPD DisplaySearch’s “Smartphones: Displays, Designs and Functionality” report.

Consumer response to the launch of the iPhone 5 will be a signal event and indicator for smartphone market participants this year, they add. “Apple’s iPhone 5 will be a key product for the smartphone market in 2H’12.

“Apple shipped more than 140 million phones in 2010 and 2011, so we can expect smartphone shipments to continue flourishing as users upgrade to the new iPhone,” commented Hiroshi Hayase, vice president, Small/Medium Displays.

NPD DisplaySearch anticipates the iPhone 5 will have a larger touchscreen–4” as opposed to 3.5,” while keeping the same 326 ppi Retina display. The combination will result in a wider screen format of 1136 x 640 pixels.

The iPhone 5 will also incorporate new in-cell touch technology, one of the most widely anticipated enhancements to Apple’s latest smartphone, according to NPD DisplaySearch. In-cell touch entails embedding a touch sensor into the display panel, which is said to improve performance of the display while also reducing the thickness of the display-sensor combination by as much as a ½-millimeter. NPD DisplaySearch analysts believe Apple will use the extra space for a larger battery that will reduce the need for recharging.