Smartphone sales top feature phones for first time

Analyst firm IDC claims smartphones outsold feature phones for the first time in the opening quarter of 2013

The start of 2013 has seen smartphone sales overtake feature phones for the first time, according to IDC.

The analyst firm claimed overall sales of mobiles had risen by 4% year-on-year in the first quarter of 2013, with 418.6 million shipments over the three months.

However, the number of smartphones that made up the figure – 216.2 million – outnumbered feature phone sales, accounting for 51.6% of all shipments in the quarter.

"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," he said.

Samsung held on to its crown as the leader of the smartphone market, according to the report, with IDC claiming the supplier shipped more handsets than the next four suppliers in the league table combined – 70.7 million over the three-month period.

Apple grew its shipments by 6.6% year-on-year to 37.4 million in the first quarter of 2013, keeping its spot at number two, while LG came in third, thanks mainly to the Nexus 4, after having been out of the top five for six months.

Fourth and fifth place were taken by Chinese manufacturers Huawei and ZTE respectively, knocking out even more of the traditional suppliers.

"In addition to smartphones displacing feature phones, the other major trend in the industry is the emergence of Chinese companies among the leading smartphone suppliers," said 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."

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