Since QCOM’s licensing unit (QTL) receives royalties on 3G and 4G devices, smart phone market trends can be monitored by following what QCOM is seeing. They also keep a close watch on what’s happening in the overall smart phone market. Here is some more information from their last earnings conference call held on 4/22/2015:
"Turning to our view of global 3G, 4G device demand we continue to see very healthy growth and have increased our calendar 2014 global 3G, 4G device shipment estimate to approximately 1.37 billion units, up approximately 27% year-over-year. As a reminder, this includes those devices we expect to be reported to us, as well as our estimates of unreported and unlicensed device sales, but excludes TD-SCDMA devices that do not implement LTE.
We saw strength in both developed and emerging regions during 2014 and finished the year with favourable replacement rate trends in developed regions, as well as LTE volume strength, particularly in China. We expect these growth trends to continue throughout calendar 2015. We now expect global 3G, 4G device shipments to be 1.25 billion units to 1.6 billion units in calendar 2015, up approximately 11% to 17% with our buyers continuing to be towards the high end of that range.
It’s worth noting that we are still in the very early days of LTE adoption. According to GSMA intelligence only 8% of global connections are LTE. In February, China granted nationwide FTD-LTE licenses to both China Telecom and China Unicom, each of the Chinese operators has announced significant investments in LTE network build-outs and has set aggressive targets for subscriber additions this year. For calendar year 2014, we are increasing our estimate of reported 3G, 4G devices to between 1.17 billion units and 1.19 billion units.
Turning to estimated 3G, 4G device ASPs, the ASP of devices reported to QTL during the second quarter of fiscal 2015 was approximately $196 at the mid-point. Absent the effect of prior period catch up units the reported ASP would have been approximately $211 at the mid-point up $14 sequentially, driven by stronger ASPs in both emerging and developed regions, reflecting a favourable mix of higher tier handsets.
We are now forecasting global 3G, 4G device DSPs to the decline approximately 11% to 12% year-over-year in fiscal 2015, an improvement to our previous estimate of 12% to 13%, despite an increase in negative foreign exchange effects. The improvement is primarily due to a favourable mix of higher tier handsets and stronger pricing in the low to mid-tiers of LTE devices in China. We now expect global 3G, 4G total device sales in fiscal 2015 to be up approximately 8% to 11% over fiscal 2014, despite foreign exchange headwinds, driven by both stronger units and ASP, particularly in emerging regions."