KUALA LUMPUR: Worldwide sales of smartphones to end-users in 2013 increased 42.3% to 968 million units from 2012, according to IT research company Gartner Inc.
Sales of smartphones now constitute 53.6% of overall mobile phone sales, exceeding sales of feature phones for the first time.
Smartphone sales grew 36% in the fourth quarter of 2013 and accounted for 57.6% of overall mobile phone sales in the fourth quarter, up from 44% a year before. This increasing contribution of smartphones was led by growth in Latin America, the Middle East and Africa, Asia/Pacific and Eastern Europe, where smartphone sales grew by more than 50% in the fourth quarter of 2013.
With a 166.8% increase in the fourth quarter of 2013, India exhibited the highest smartphone sales growth among the countries tracked by Gartner, and Latin America saw the strongest growth among all regions (96.1%) in the fourth quarter.
China also contributed significantly to worldwide smartphone sales as sales grew 86.3% in 2013.
Mobile phone sales in mature regions fell due to weaker demand.
TOP SMARTPHONE BRANDS
Samsung: While Samsung's smartphone share was up in 2013, it slightly fell by 1.6 percentage points in the fourth quarter of 2013 to 83.3 million units. This was mainly due to a saturated high-end smartphone market in developed regions.
Apple: Strong sales of the iPhone 5s and continued strong demand for the 4s in emerging markets helped Apple see record sales of 50.2 million smartphones in the fourth quarter of 2013.
"However, Apple's share in smartphone declined both in the fourth quarter of 2013 and in 2013, but growth in sales helped to raise share in the overall mobile phone market," said Mr. Gupta.
Huawei: Huawei smartphone sales grew 85.3% in the fourth quarter of 2013 to maintain the No 3 spot. Huawei has moved quickly to align its organisation to focus on the global market. Huawei's overseas expansion delivered strong results in the fourth quarter of 2013, with growth in the Middle East and Africa, Asia/Pacific, Latin America and Europe.
Lenovo: Lenovo saw smartphone sales in 2013 increase by 102.3% and by 63.1% in the fourth quarter of 2013. Lenovo's Motorola acquisition from Google will give Lenovo an opportunity to expand within the Americas.
"The acquisition will also provide Lenovo with patent protection and allow it to expand rapidly across the global market," said Mr. Gupta. "We believe this deal is not just about entering into the US, but more about stepping out of China."
Gartner expects smartphones to continue to drive overall sales in 2014 and an increasing number of manufacturers will realign their portfolios to focus on the low-cost smartphone sector.
Sales of high-end smartphones will slow as increasing sales of low- and mid-price smartphones in high-growth emerging markets will shift the product mix to lower-end devices.
In the smartphone OS market, Android's share grew 12 percentage points to reach 78.4% in 2013, with sales of Android phones in 2014 approaching the billion mark.
"While the top three mobile manufacturers are dominating the global mobile phone market, their share collectively fell in the fourth quarter of 2013 and yearly as Chinese and regional brands continue to raise their share," said Mr. Gupta – Reuters.