For the first time ever, smartphone shipments have surpassed 50% of the global mobile phone market meaning it's only a matter of time before the devices are truly ubiquitous.
The figures, published Friday by IDC for the first quarter of 2013, show that the global mobile phone market has grown 4% year on year. This translates as 418.6 million total devices of which 216.2 million, or 51.6%, were smartphones.
Focusing solely on smartphone shipments, the figures show that demand for the connected devices has grown by 41.6% compared with the same time last year when a ‘mere' 152.7 million smartphone handsets were shipped.
"Phone users want computers in their pockets. The days where phones are used primarily to make phone calls 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."
And, as feature phones start to beat a retreat, the growth in smartphone demand has proven a huge opportunity for Chinese manufacturers in particular.
While Samsung and Apple are still firmly the world's number one and number two device makers -- Samsung shipped 70.7 million and Apple 37.4 million handsets over the last three months -- ZTE, Huawei and Lenovo are also making huge gains. So much so that they have pushed Nokia, BlackBerry and Sony out of the top five.
"In addition to smartphones displacing feature phones, the other major trend in the industry is the emergence of Chinese companies among the leading smartphone vendors," noted Ramon Llamas, research manager with IDC's Mobile Phone team.
"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."
While LG moved back into third place with 10.3 million devices shipped, Huawai has moved into fourth (9.9 million handsets) and ZTE is now in fifth place (9.1 million).
However, as new flagship handsets start to launch throughout this quarter, most notably the HTC One, Samsung Galaxy S4 and the long-awaited QWERTY-keyboard BlackBerry Q10, next quarter's figures could be very different.
Yet, with a combined 50% global market share it will probably take more than a new handset for any phone maker to dislodge Samsung and Apple from the top of the pile. — ©AFP/Relaxnews 2013