Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi poses for selfies with Indian students during a visit at the French National Space Agency (CNES) in Toulouse April 11, 2015. India is the world's fastest growing smartphone market and home to some of the largest user bases of the Internet's biggest companies. Reuters/Adrien Helou

India’s smartphone market, with its low smartphone penetration, will grow to overtake the United States, and become the largest smartphone market in the world after China, in only a couple of years, a research firm said on Wednesday.

Global smartphone sales are forecast to grow to a record 1.7 billion in 2017 from 1.5 billion units in 2015, and India will account for about 10 percent of those sales, at 174 million smartphones, while the U.S. will rise marginally from its 2015 levels to 169 million, Strategy Analytics said in a press release.

China, despite slower growth, will continue to be the largest market -- accounting for more phones than India and the U.S. combined -- and will also be the only market to account for over 500 million handsets sold in a year, at 505 million in 2017.

This year, India is projected to account for sales of 118 million smartphones and China for 458 million. That also makes India the fastest-growing major market, at 43 percent year-on-year growth versus 2014, while China is projected to grow at 13 percent. The U.S., at 11 percent, is projected to account for sales of 164 million handsets in 2015.

“China has been the engine of global smartphone growth in recent years, but China is now maturing and slowing. India is fast becoming the next major growth wave,” Linda Sui, a director at Strategy Analytics, said in the press release.

India’s growth is being driven by low smartphone penetration, expanding retail availability of devices, wealthier middle-class consumers and aggressive promotions from local smartphone brands such as Micromax Informatics Ltd., Sui said.

Woody Oh, another director at the research firm, added: “No serious global hardware or software player can afford to ignore the huge Indian smartphone market today.”

Global smartphone sales will increase by 8 percent in 2016, Strategy Analytics said in a larger report on global smartphone sales between 2007 and 2020 that covers sales by operating systems in 88 countries.

Android will maintain top spot as the world's most popular platform by volume, but Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd.’s Tizen, Mozilla Corp.’s Firefox, Microsoft Corp.’s Windows and others will be among the fastest-growing operating systems and they will “steadily chip away at Android's lead during the next five years,” the research firm said.