By the end of the year, half a billion people will have invested in a little extra protection for their smartphone.
According to ABI Research the biggest single category for aftermarket smartphone accessories isn't designer headphones or wireless speaker systems but protective cases.
The company forecasts that by the end of 2014 consumers will have spent a combined $13 billion on 556,855,035 protective cases for their handsets. And as smartphone shipments now total 1 billion a year, that means that almost exactly half of all owners are taking greater steps to keep their handsets safe.
"Consumers are seeking additional protection for their smartphones, with most modern devices coming with larger screens and therefore more susceptibility to damage if dropped or carried in a pocket unprotected," comments Thomas McCourtie, Research Analyst at ABI Research.
But cases don't simply offer protection, some, such as the Mophie Space Pack, also combine ruggedness with extra internal memory. And ABI speculates that these types of cases that add functionality -- be it more battery life, wireless charging or simply pockets and recesses for carrying other items like credit cards -- are going to be big in 2015.
"Some protective cases also offer compartments to store debit and credit cards, and with an increasing number of consumers opting to pay for goods and services via contactless payment systems, there is more of an incentive to carry all essential items (phone and bank cards) together for added convenience," adds McCourtie.
Spare phone chargers and SD memory cards are also hugely popular -- the second and third most purchased smartphone accessory after a case -- but wired and Bluetooth headsets is where the future excitement seems to be. ABI is the latest in a line of consultancy firms and associations from IDC to the Consumer Electronics Association to highlight how consumers are more and more willing to invest in branded, high-quality headphones and speakers, from Beats to Bose. Sales are expected to grow by 18 percent over the next five years.
"Products such as the Beats by Dr. Dre Pill and the Creative D200 have become some of the most sought-after mobile accessories," finishes McCourtie. "People are willing to pay for quality audio and highly visual brands. The popularity of music streaming services such as iTunes, Spotify, and Beats Music is helping to drive sales."