2011 To Become The Year Of The Smartphone?

While 2011 has unofficially been branded many things, such as the “year of the tablet,” there’s also reason to believe that 2011 will also become the “year of the smartphone.”

When Verizon Wireless announced its Q4 earnings earlier this week it said that only 26% of its 94 million subscribers are smartphone users.  Interestingly though, 75% of contract subscribers are buying smartphones, meaning overall smartphone penetration is set to grow dramatically at Verizon this year — especially with the introduction of the iPhone 4 with attractive unlimited data plans.

The same shift happening at Verizon is happening at the other big three operators as well.  In total, more than 75% of Q4 2010 postpaid net subscriber additions purchased smartphones.  According to Nielsen, 28% of US mobile subscribers had smartphones as of November 2010, with that number rising to 35% by the start of 2011.  By the end of this year, smartphone adoption is projected to hit the all-important 50% threshold in the US, equally roughly 150-160 million mobile subscribers.

Though smartphone penetration has been building for several years now, it’s still relatively small in looking at the big picture.  All signs are pointing to 2011 becoming the year smartphone adoption hits critical mass, resulting in a true “year of the smartphone.”