No, mobile device sales aren’t going to tank

CBSNews’ MoneyWatch caught my eye this morning with this post asking whether mobile devices sales are positioned to “take a big dive.” The piece cites results from a survey conducted by management consultancy cg42 that found only 16 percent of U.S. respondents plan to buy a new mobile gadget in the next year. MoneyWatch then does some back-of-the-envelope math and concludes, “That would represent at least a 65 percent drop in the pace of sales, which seems unlikely. Either this study has significantly underestimated future sales or the mobile market could be in for a startling slowdown.”

I think the correct answer is clearly the former. There’s no question that mobile subscriber growth in the U.S. is slowing, as my colleague Kevin Fitchard recently documented. But the problem is that the definition of “mobile devices” is changing much more quickly than most users understand. While that term traditionally has referred to handsets and maybe tablets, it now includes smartwatches, glasses and other wearables, as well as connected gadgets for our homes and cars. The growth of smartphone and tablet sales may indeed slow dramatically in the U.S. over the next year or two, but the overall number of connected devices will ramp up even more dramatically.