IDC: Smartphone shipments eclipse feature phones for first time

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Smartphones accounted for more than half of all mobile phones shipped during the first quarter of 2013, eclipsing feature phone shipments for the first time ever, research firm IDC reports.

Vendors shipped a total of 418.6 million mobile phones during the first quarter, up from 402.4 million units in the year-ago quarter but down from 483.2 million units in the fourth quarter of 2012. Smartphone shipments reached 216.2 million during the first quarter, a year-over-year increase of 41.6 percent.

Smartphones accounted for 51.6 percent of all phones shipped from January through March, IDC notes. "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."

Samsung Electronics led all smartphone vendors with first-quarter shipments of 70.7 million, more units than the next four vendors combined. Samsung now controls 32.7 percent of the global smartphone market, up from 28.8 percent a year ago. "What remains to be seen is how Samsung's new Tizen-powered smartphones will look and feel later this year and fit into the company's overall smartphone portfolio," IDC said.

While Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone shipment volume reached a new first-quarter high of 37.4 million, a 6.6 percent year-over-year leap, its market share declined from 23 percent in the first quarter of 2012 to 17.3 percent in the most recent quarter. LG Electronics follows with first-quarter shipments at 10.3 million, up 110.2 percent year-over-year for a market share of 4.8 percent, edging past Huawei at 9.9 million, a 94.1 percent annual increase corresponding to a market share of 4.6 percent. ZTE trails with shipments of 9.1 million, up 49.2 percent from the previous year, to control 4.2 percent of the global smartphone market.

"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," said Ramon Llamas, research manager with IDC's Mobile Phone team. "A year ago, it was common to see previous market leaders Nokia (NYSE:NOK), BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) (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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