Smartphone sales overtake feature phone demand for first time

Smartphone sales exceeded those of feature phones for the first time in 2013, fuelled by growing demand for the devices in Latin America, APAC and Eastern Europe.

That's according to Gartner's latest quarterly analysis of the global mobile phone market, which tracks the sector's full-year and Q4 performance.

Its figures show smartphone sales topped 968 million units in 2013, up from 680 million the previous year, with the devices accounting for 53.6 per cent of all phones sold.

This means more smartphones were sold in 2013 than feature phones, which is a first for the industry.

From a quarterly perspective, smartphone sales were up 36 per cent in Q4 and accounted for 57.6 per cent of all phones sold during the final three months of 2013.

The analyst house has cited demand for the devices in Latin America, the Middle East and Africa, APAC and Eastern Europe, as smartphone sales were up 50 per cent in these regions during Q4.

"With a 166.8 per cent 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 per cent)," said Gartner in a statement.

"China also contributed significantly to worldwide smartphone sales [as these grew] 86.3 per cent in 2013."

While sales boomed in these regions, mature markets saw a downturn in demand for smartphones.

Anshul Gupta, principal research analyst at Gartner, explained: "Mature markets face limited growth potential as the markets are saturated with smartphone sales, leaving little room for growth with declining feature phone market and a longer replacement cycle.

"Lack of compelling hardware innovation has further exacerbated replacement cycles for high-end smartphones in 2013 because consumers don't find enough reasons to upgrade," Gupta added.

In vendor terms, Samsung, Apple and Huawei continued to dominate the top three during 2013.

Caroline Donnelly is the news and analysis editor of IT Pro and its sister site Cloud Pro, and covers general news, as well as the storage, security, public sector, cloud and Microsoft beats. Caroline has been a member of the IT Pro/Cloud Pro team since March 2012, and has previously worked as a reporter at several B2B publications, including UK channel magazine CRN, and as features writer for local weekly newspaper, The Slough and Windsor Observer. She studied Medical Biochemistry at the University of Leicester and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism at PMA Training in 2006.