mobile devicesWorldwide shipments of PCs, tablets, ultramobiles and mobile phones will grow 6.9% year over year in 2014, reaching 2.5 billion units. Having increased 4.8% in 2013, this year’s shipments will be held back by an ongoing decline in shipments of PCs, as well as a slowdown in substitution of tablets for PCs, according to a new forecast from Gartner.

The largest category of devices in Gartner’s latest market research, mobile phones will grow 4.9% year over year in 2014 to reach 1.9 billion units. Higher sales at the lower end of the premium mobile phone segment and at the higher end of the basic segment of the market will drive growth.

“While the lack of compelling hardware innovation marginally extended replacement cycles in 2013, we’ve witnessed an upgrade path in the emerging markets,” elaborated Gartner principal analyst Annette Zimmermann. “Latin America, the Middle East and Africa, Asia/Pacific and Eastern Europe have all upgraded their phones, which will help to compensate for mature market weakness in the near term.”

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Tablets will continue as the fastest growing category, with worldwide shipments rising 38.6% from 2013. A pick-up in growth in emerging markets will more than offset a slowdown in North America, which has led the worldwide market. “The adoption of tablets has been largely concentrated in the U.S., with the dominance of Apple. Market dynamics in other regions are different, as the uptake of lower cost, smaller, non-branded tablets, becomes more apparent,” commented Atwal.

Gartner forecasts worldwide shipments of traditional PCs will fall 6.6% year over year, totaling 276.7 million units in 2014. Two-thirds of notebook and desktop PC replacements will remain in this category while one-third will be replaced by ultramobiles or will not be replaced at all, according to Atwal.

The slowdown in the substitution of tablets for PCs should be accompanied by more clarity as to which devices consumers believe best match their usage patterns. “Tablet substitution of notebooks will start to dissipate from this year onwards as consumers and businesses align the right device with the right usage pattern,” Gartner research director Ranjit Atwal was quoted in a press release.

“As they do this, we will see where dedicated devices (such as tablets), or hybrid devices (detachable or convertible devices), fit in the overall portfolio of devices.”

Turning to mobile operating systems, Gartner foresees iOS tablet growth in North America slowing, driving Apple’s need to “reinvigorate its replacement cycle.” Google, meanwhile, is on target to sell over 1 billion Android devices in 2014.

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