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How popular are smartphones in Australia?

Mobile phones have become as much a part of everyday life as widescreen TVs and tablets - but has the Australian market reached saturation point yet?

With a growing number of products available, consumers now have more choice than ever when they come to compare mobile plans.

Providers are constantly battling to hang on to their most loyal customers, which is why people are more inclined than ever to go in search of a good deal.

How many people in Australia have smartphones?

One of the biggest product streams to have entered the Australian market is the smartphone - and it seems people are keener than ever to go their hands on one.

Figures from the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) show that as of May last year, there were 11.19 million smartphone users across the country.

This marked a rise of 29 per cent since the year before, showing that feature-rich handsets have taken the market by storm.

There's also a growing interest in standard handsets, as ACMA revealed that as of June 2013, there were 31.09 million mobile services active in Australia - up 2 per cent from the previous year.

What are people using their smartphones for?

One of the reasons smartphones are so popular is the wide range of features they have to offer.

However, one of the most popular applications seems to be the ability to access the internet. ACMA found that as of June 2013, 10.81 million people headed online at least once a day.

This figure is most impressive when you consider how many people used their mobile phones to browse the internet just five years previous. Between 2008 and 2013, usage increased 72 per cent.

A total of 42 per cent of adults accessed the internet using their mobile phone in June last year, which is 10 per cent higher than the level registered in June 2012.

Can mobile phone popularity grow any further?

With so many people now in possession of mobile handsets, it seems likely that the market will eventually reach saturation point.

June 2014 figures from the International Data Corporation (IDC) might suggest this time has already been reached. It revealed a seasonal low in shipments during the first quarter of this year.

Shipments were down 22 per cent compared to the final quarter of 2013 and declined 17 per cent year-on-year.

However, the IDC did see a growing trend for people moving away from feature-based handsets to smartphones. This contributed to a 38 per cent fall in feature phone shipments.

However, the smartphone market also came up against some challenges as 2014 got underway, as the level of shipments fell by 20 per cent.

There may have been various reasons behind this trend, suggested the IDC's Senior Market Analyst Amy Cheah.

"The smartphone market in Q1 was subdued when the initial hype over Apple's new iPhone 5s and 5c tapered off from last quarter," she noted.

"Consumers were also holding off their purchases in anticipation for the next wave of Galaxy S smartphones from Samsung, then rumoured to be in Q2."

What does the future have in store for smartphones?

One factor that's working in the favour of smartphone lovers at the moment is that manufacturers are constantly trying to outdo each other - and the same goes for mobile plan providers.

This opens up more choice to consumers, meaning they find themselves facing the greatest choice of handsets and price plans to suit their needs and budget.

Hype surrounding the latest releases shows little sign of abating, suggesting the smartphone market is as strong as ever.

Posted by Richard West