Summary:

The smartphone industry is expected to see shipment growth of 26 percent to 897 million units this year, according to IHS iSuppli. It sees Apple’s most important product growing just 12 percent in that same period.

iphones

While overall smartphone shipments are expected to grow roughly 26 percent from last year, Apple’s iPhone shipment growth is tracking to fall below the industry average, according to a forecast released by research firm IHS iSuppli on Wednesday.

The Mobile Handsets Electronic Market Tracker for Q2 report says total smartphone shipments this year are on pace to reach 897 million units. That’s up from the 712 million smartphones shipped in 2012. IHS iSuppli analyst Wayne Lam attributes this boost to the overall volume of new handsets that have already hit or are expected to hit store shelves before the end of the year.

But the individual smartphone model that’s been one of the main drivers of the growth of the industry for the past six years — and Apple’s most important product — may see full-year sales unit growth smaller than usual. From the report:

On the other hand, Apple’s iPhone franchise appears to be stalling as first-quarter shipments of 37.4 million fell below expectations. With the next iPhone model not expected until the second half of the year, there is a real possibility that the full-year 2013 sales volume of the iPhone may be essentially flat at around 150 million units, compared to 134 million units in 2012.

“Essentially flat” in this case means about 12 percent growth in shipments. That’s small for the iPhone: Apple sold around 93 million iPhones in 2011, so 2012’s sales reflected a growth rate of 44 percent.

There have been hints here and there this year that the iPhone’s growth is slowing this year from its once speedy pace. The 37.4 million iSuppli references was just a hair above the 35.1 million iPhones sold in the same quarter in 2012. And last week, word began to spread that Verizon, one of the top outlets for iPhone sales, may not be able to meet the purchase agreement it signed with Apple in 2010 due to iPhone sales falling below its earlier projections.

Apple’s earnings are next Tuesday, July 23, and we’ll get more detail on how Apple is tracking for the year when it announces the number of iPhones shipped between April and the end of June. (Though the real wild card will be the last three months of the year, when Apple typically does best with iPhone sales due to the holiday and new model availability.)

As of now, some analysts are predicting Apple will announce shipments of around 29 million iPhones next week, which would be just slightly ahead of the 26 million from the same quarter in 2012.

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