March 31 (Reuters) - Global smartphone sales are expected to grow in single digits in percentage terms for the first time ever and PC shipments are forecast to decline in 2016, according to research firm Gartner Inc. Gartner said on Thursday it expected smartphone sales to grow only 7 percent to 1.5 billion units in 2016 from 2015, stunted by flat sales in the crucial China and North America markets. "The double-digit growth era for the global smartphone market has come to an end," Ranjit Atwal, research director, was quoted as saying in Gartner's latest Devices Forecast findings. The Stamford, Connecticut-headquartered firm said it expects worldwide shipments for PC's to decrease 1.5 percent from 2015, before returning to growth in 2017.
It's not a secret that smartphone sales have been dropping around the world, but a new report gives us an idea of just how bad it's getting. Manufacturers shipped just 355.2 million units last quarter, a decline of 6.0 percent over last year, according to data firm IDC. Samsung caused much of that pain because it shipped 13.4 percent fewer smartphones last quarter and it accounts for 20.3 percent of the global smartphone market. The other main problem was in China, which represents a third of total smartphone sales. Shipments were down again in that country for the sixth consecutive quarter, on top of an 11 percent drop in the first half of 2018.
Smartphone shipments in the world's largest market continued to shrink this year, slumping 21 percent to 91 million units in the first quarter of 2018 from 114 million units in the same period a year earlier -- and marking the biggest quarterly decline since the end of 2013, according to a Canalys report last week. Huawei, Oppo, Vivo, and Xiaomi have firmly dominated the top positions in smartphone shipments, owning a combined share of 73 percent in the first quarter of 2018, up from 58 percent owned by the four brands a year earlier. Other brands, including Apple, accounted for 27 percent of the entire shipments in the past three month, down from 42 percent in the first quarter of 2017, suggesting that the Chinese market has been further consolidated and become the playground for major brands only. Among the top 10 smartphone vendors in China, only two smartphone brands, Huawei and Xiaomi, reported positive year-on-year growth in the past quarter, whose shipments expanded 2 percent and 37 percent respectively during the three-month period. The other eight all reported declined shipments last quarter, with Gionee, Meizu, and Samsung being the biggest losers in the market with shipments slumping by more than 50 percent during the period.
A number of people have asked me whether it possible to build a smartphone out of easily available parts. It won't be as sleek or as powerful as one you could pick up, and you will have to assemble it yourself, but it's one of those projects that's very doable. Here's one example built around a Raspberry Pi board, and Adafruit Fona GSM board, a 5-megapixel camera, 802.11n You'll have to shop around for some of these parts, but the last time I looked they were all still available. Now, this might not be a device that you want to carry around with you as a daily smartphone, but it's something that you could integrate into a bigger project, such as an IoT hub or maybe a rugged handset for use in an off-road vehicle or boat.
The more we depend on our phones, the smarter these phones become and the more developers come up with new applications to make our lives easier. While one of the downsides to smartphones is the dangerous effects using one can have on our driving abilities, using smartphones to prevent car accidents caused by distracted driving is a way cellphone technology can be put to good purposes.