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With myriad devices, from eReaders to PCs to gaming consoles, consumers have a buffet of techno-swag to choose from. So which piece of hardware will win the most followers this year? According to analyst firm Gartner, 2011 will be the year of the smartphone. An in the age of the consumerization of IT, that means more to IT solution providers than ever before.

Recently released survey results show that in 2011, U.S. consumers will be more likely to buy a smartphone than any other device, including PCs, mobile phones, eReaders, gaming consoles and tablets. Sales for smartphones are expected to dramatically increase (from 67 million units to 95 million units this year) while PC shipment numbers are expected to grow by only 5.3 million units (50.9 million in 2011, up from 45.6 million in 2010).

"Continued low retail pricing and widespread adoption of applications like Web browsing, e-mail, Twitter, Facebook, GPS and games will continue to stimulate consumer demand," said Hugues de la Vergne, principal research analyst at Gartner, in a statement. "In 2010, smartphones benefited from aggressive operator device subsidies and lower-cost monthly data plans."

Perhaps the most surprising result was where the tablet fell in order of intent to purchase for 2011. With all of the hysteria around iPads and Android tablets, one may think tablets would be at the top or near-top of devices U.S. consumers intended to purchase this year.

Not so, says Gartner. After smartphones, next in line for purchase, U.S. consumers plan to purchase laptop computers, followed by a desktop. Fourth in line was a mobile phone, followed by eBooks, and tablets coming in sixth.

As for the smartphone market, Gartner says demand for high-end smartphones continues to be strong, but look for middle-to-lower end smartphone devices to gain traction.

“As more consumers adopt smartphones, the market will shift from the more technically astute tech savants toward less tech-savvy comfortable conformists. Issues such as ease of use will become even more important in 2011,” said de la Vergne. “First-time smartphone buyers may not be familiar with the range of operating systems and the different versions of those OSs. With operators offering generous return policies on all mobile phones, it is important that handset producers offer devices that will appeal to the less technologically advanced consumer.”

As a result, the analyst firm says carriers should look to offer more affordable )between $10 to $15 introductory monthly pricing plans that “hook” consumers and usher in adoption of higher-priced plans.  

The results come from a survey of 1557 mobile phone users in the U.S., China. India, Italy, Japan and the U.K. and was conducted in December of 2010,256 of which were U.S. consumers.