Microsoft Windows Phones To See Greatest Growth During Next Four Years

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- If you think the world is beginning to grown tired of better and better smartphones - think again. According to a new study, smartphones shipments are expected to top 1.2 billion this year, up 23% year over year.

According to a new survey from research firm IDC, the largest gains are expected to come from devices running on Microsoft's (MSFT) Windows Phone operating system. 

IDC expects Windows Phones to continue on its path of slow but steady growth over the next four years. This year, volumes are expected to grow nearly 30% over 2013 results, reaching 43.3 million shipments. That momentum is expected to continue into 2015, reaching 65.9 million units. The estimates for 2018 are 115 million devices, despite not knowing Microsoft's exact plans for its newly purchased Nokia phone division.

Microsoft shares were off 0.11% to $39.97 in early morning trading in New York.

Google's (GOOG) Android OS-based phones will still dominate the global marketplace with estimates showing market share topping 80% for this year. Over the next few years Android phones are predicted to actually lose a very small percentage of overall share. IDC believes that's due to increasing Windows Phone success.

Despite the probability of larger-screened models, Apple (AAPL) iPhones may see an overall drop in global share over the next four years - from 14.8% this year to 13.7% by 2018. Analysts see continued strong sales in Apple's "mature markets" where devices are heavily subsidized. But, it's in emerging markets where the largest overall growth is taking place - places where sub-$200 iPhone models will need to compete.

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