Knowing the companies you own is just one step to having a complete look at an industry. For Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) investors, quite a bit can also be learned about the company by watching the competitors, suppliers, and market research surrounding the company.
For Apple, or investors of any mobile company, there's no doubt that whenever Qualcomm (Nasdaq: QCOM ) speaks, it should be required reading. The company has essential wireless patents across 3G and next-generation LTE that it licenses to over 220 companies. What this means is, as a "tollbooth" to the wireless world, Qualcomm has some of the best insights into sales trends and where the mobile industry is headed.
Qualcomm held its 2012 analyst meeting last month. Along with the meeting, Qualcomm produced a 153-page PDF that's chock-full of amazing mobile statistics. With investors in Apple trying to get a hold of mobile growth left ahead for the company in the coming years, Qualcomm's an excellent company to help sort out opportunities. Following are some figures from Qualcomm and various researchers that were in Qualcomm's analyst meeting and can all be found in the PDF.
- In 2011 there were 0.8 billion 3G and 4G connections in emerging-market regions. By 2016, that number is expected to rise to 2.7 billion connections, thanks in part to booming smartphone and tablet sales.
- The growth rate varies by region, but it's most impressive in Latin America. The "laggard" in connections growth is India, which is still expected to see 185% growth. The growth rates by region:
- China 246%
- India 185%
- Middle East/Africa 232%
- Latin America 308%
- The figure above cites 3G and 4G connections, but if you're looking for smartphone only, the rates are still very impressive. Between 2011 and 2016, China is expected to see a smartphone shipment compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 34%, Latin America's is 27%, and India is at 39%.
- Add it all up, and the forecast is for 800 milion smartphone shipments in emerging regions by 2016. There were about 477 million smartphones shipped last year.
- In 2011 29% of all handsets shipped were smartphones.
- In 2012, that figure is expected to rise to 39%.
- And then hit 49% in 2013.
- Finally, in 2016, smartphones will be 67% of all shipments. That's bad news for a company like Nokia (NYSE: NOK ) , which still has a brisk amount of non-smartphone sales.
A note of caution to Apple investors, and investors buying into mobile companies in general, that while developed-market smartphone demand skewed more high-end, cheaper phones will be more appealing in this next level of growth. Already, more than 50% of smartphone sales in China are "white-label" phones that normally sell for less than $200.
Still, the numbers come as a reminder that there's still heady mobile growth available, not just in smartphones but also in tablets.
Smartphone growth that's shifting to emerging markets that prefer cheaper phones is at the center of the debate raging as to whether Apple remains a buy. I'm prepared to fill you in on both reasons to buy and reasons to sell Apple, and what opportunities are left for the company (and, more importantly, your portfolio) going forward. To get instant access to his latest thinking on Apple, simply click here now.