The smartphone market continues to remain robust, as an estimated 1.5 billion devices will likely ship this year alone. With that said, some analysts predict that the market will begin to level off in three to four years as saturation occurs. Predictions for smartphone shipments by 2020 fall in a range between 1.75 to 2 billion handsets. While this certainly signifies continued growth, one HTC executive surprised a crowded room at a company conference last week with comments regarding the market’s decline.
In a recent statement, Wang Tsung-ching, head of Vive at HTC China, estimated that the virtual reality headset market could eclipse that of the smartphone market in as little as four years. Yes, VR is an upcoming technology that’s sure to experience exponential growth over the coming years as a market, but when one looks at the numbers, this prediction seems a tad bit too bullish. Considering the fact that 1.75 to 2 million smartphones will likely be shipped in 2020 alone, that would mean that the VR headset market would have to experience growth like no technology has ever come close to in the past. Even if Wang Tsung-ching was basing his projections on a slumping smartphone market, one would still imagine that such a projection would call for over 1.5 billion VR headsets to ship in 2020.
While such a projection seems nearly impossible, if smartphone manufacturers, particularly Apple decides within the next 2-3 years to begin following the business model that Samsung recently put into action; offering their Gear VR headset for free to those purchasing a new smartphone, the number of VR headset shipments could increase substantially in a very short period of time. Additionally, we do not know if Wang Tsung-ching considers the sub-$10 headset market, ie. Google Cardboard, as part of his equation. Google Cardboard has already shipped over 5 million headsets worldwide and other companies have quickly jumped into the affordable VR headset space as well.
Considering that Wang Tsung-ching is at the head of one of the more promising VR units, HTC’s, it’s only natural that he’s incredibly bullish on the industry. I just think that his projections could be 4-5 years ahead of themselves. Personally I do envision a time, in the not too distant future, when practically every smartphone will ship with a VR headset or in some cases be it’s own headset, but considering that the PC market took 30 years to peak and be supplanted by mobile technology, I don’t think the smartphone market is quite ready to give up its position as the world’s top tech market anytime soon.
What are your thoughts on Wang Tsung-ching’s comments? Is it possible for the virtual reality market to overtake that of the smartphone market in just four years? Let’s hear your thoughts in the VR Vs. Smartphones forum on VRTalk.com.