The future looks increasingly bright for the iPhone and iPad. The mobile handset, smartphone, and tablet chip markets have seen tremendous growth in the last five years, driven by innovative new products like Apple’s smartphone and tablet, and Google’s Android phones and tablets.

GBI Research’s ( new cell phone and tablet market research report says declining growth in cellular handset shipments (6.5% in 2011 compared with 12% growth in 2010) is largely offset by a predicted 17% growth in smartphone sales. Baseband chips constitute the largest non-memory cellphone chip market, valued at US$15.9 billion for 2011.

Power management units account for a $5.5 billion market value. Other major cellular chips are RF transceivers ($3.7 billion), RF power amplifiers ($3.6 billion), image sensors ($2.9 billion),  standalone application processors ($2.8 billion), and  touch-screen controllers ($2.7 billion).

For startups and smaller companies, the market for cellular peripheral chips presents more profitable opportunities than these major core markets. Wireless peripheral “combo” radio devices consisting of Wi-Fi, FM/AM, Bluetooth, GPS and (perhaps soon) NFC together constitute a growing share of the cellphone component market.

The NFC-enabled handset market is set to grow at a CAGR [compound annual growth rate] of 68.8% from 2011-2016, according to GBI Research. This NFC market forecast predicts that NFC will also be integrated in BlueTooth chipsets before 2016. Indeed, BlueTooth-embedded handset sales are expected to reach 2.4 billion units by 2016, and the majority of these phones will also feature NFC.

Bluetooth 4.0 (BLE) was launched in November 2011 and this version is expected to lead handset manufacturers to opt for dual mode chips that support both BLE as well as older BlueTooth technology.

— Dennis Sellers