Over the past seven years, the worldwide smartphone market has contracted six times on an annual basis. However, 2024 is set to be the year where the smartphone market swings back to growth.

According to a new forecast from the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, smartphone shipments are expected to reach 1,2-billion units in 2024, growing 2,8% year over year, followed by growth in the low single digits through 2028.

While overall volumes are still below pre-pandemic levels, IDC believes the market has corrected itself and is moving on from the bottom.

“It’s been a challenging run for the smartphone market, even when looking at the years leading into the pandemic,” says Ryan Reith, group vice-president with IDC’s Worldwide Mobility and Consumer Device Trackers.

“While the world continues to face a challenging macroeconomic environment, several device categories that compete for a share of wallet are seeing a return to growth, including personal computers.

“IDC firmly believes the smartphone will remain the quintessential device for most, but ongoing price increases and the improved durability of today’s smartphones supports an already lengthened replacement cycle, which will dampen new shipment growth.”

Device replacement cycles and rising demand in emerging markets are certainly key drivers to overall market recovery, but recent technological developments have brought new energy to the smartphone space.

Most notably, foldable smartphones continue to grow rapidly with year-over-year growth of 37% expected and shipments reaching 25-million in 2024.

In addition, artificial intelligence (AI) has quickly become part of the smartphone discussion, sparking new interest in next-gen AI experiences on a handheld device.

“Although total smartphone shipments remain below pre-pandemic levels, the good news is that consumers are willing to pay more for their phones. This will be further fueled by innovations in foldables and the idea of next-gen AI on a device,” says Nabila Popal, research director with IDC’s Mobility and Consumer Device Trackers.

“IDC forecasts 170-million next-gen AI smartphones will ship in 2024, representing almost 15% of the total smartphone market and surpassing even AI PCs.

“Next-gen AI smartphones will grow rapidly beyond 2024 as use cases evolve and industry players continue to push forward the NPU technology. While AI will impact all devices, smartphones will be the device driving the AI revolution into every home.”