On Thursday, the International Data Corporation (IDC) released its Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Tracker report, noting that the mobile phone market grew 4 percent year over year in the first quarter of 2013 (1Q13). The quarter saw relatively slow growth for the industry, but more interestingly, smartphone sales outpaced feature phone sales for the first time in history according to IDC.
According to the report, vendors shipped a total of 418.6 million mobile phones in the first quarter of 2013, compared to the 402.4 million units shipped in the first quarter of 2012 and the 483.2 million units shipped in the fourth quarter of 2012.
Of those units shipped, 216.2 million were smartphone devices in 1Q13, which marked the first time that smartphone sales outpaced feature handsets, with 51.6 percent of the total devices sold for the quarter. While overall mobile sales growth was slow, the smartphone market grew considerably from 152.7 million units (41.6 percent) in 1Q12.
Smartphone sales have declined since the fourth quarter of 2012, as vendors sold 227.8 million units; but due to the higher volume of total sales (483.2 million) smartphone sales did not outsell feature handset in 4Q12.
The shifting market in favor of smartphone sales doesn't come as a surprise. "Phone users want computers in their pockets. The days where phones are used primarily to make phonecalls and send text messages are quickly fading away," said Kevin Restivo, senior research analyst with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker. "As a result, the balance of smartphone power has shifted to phone makers that are most dependent on smartphones."
In addition to growth of smartphone sales, the mobile industry has seen a strong emergence form Chinese companies to become some of the leading smartphone vendors. "A year ago, it was common to see previous market leaders Nokia, BlackBerry (then Research In Motion), and HTC among the top five. While those companies have been in various stages of transformation since, Chinese vendors, including Huawei and ZTE as well as Coolpad and Lenovo have made significant strides to capture new users with their respective Android smartphones"; noted Ramon Llamas, research manager with IDC's Mobile Phone team. "
Smartphone Vendor Highlights
Samsung managed to maintain its dominant market share in the worldwide smartphone market, shipping more than the next four leading vendors combined. Apple's smartphone volume hit a new first quarter high (thanks to the iPhone 5) with volume growing 6.6 percent over the entire year. LG managed to once again grace the top 5 vendor list after a two-quarter absence, recording record shipments drien largely by its 3G portfolio.
Huawei also saw impressive growth over the course of the year, gaining a lager presence outside of the Asia/Pacific region due to its Ascend smartphones. Finally ZTE has largely stayed on course with a strong showing in both the Asia/Pacific regions and North America. However, the vendor was unable to gain presence in EMEA and Latin America despite its pervious success with low-end feature phones.
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