A major milestone for mobile computing occurred in the first quarter of 2013, as more smartphones were shipped worldwide than standard “feature phones” for the first time, according to new data from research firm IDC. A total of 216.2 million smartphones were shipped globally during the quarter, compared to 202.4 million feature phones. The market overall grew 4 percent over the same quarter last year.
“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,” Kevin Restivo, senior research analyst with IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, reported in the firm’s press release. “As a result, the balance of smartphone power has shifted to phone makers that are most dependent on smartphones.”
Looking just at smartphones, Korean electronics giant Samsung maintained its dominance of the industry, shipping more units than the next four manufacturers combined. With the recent launch of the Galaxy S4, Samsung’s position looks strong moving forward.
Apple’s shipment volume reached a record first quarter high of 37.4 million units thanks to the iPhone 5, but growth slowed to only 6.6 percent, a four-year low for the Cupertino device maker. LG, Huawei, and ZTE all posted record first quarters with very strong year-over-year growth.
The growth of Huawei and ZTE in particular signal a new era of leading Chinese smartphone vendors, according to Ramon Llamas, IDC’s research manager for mobile phones:
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. 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.
IDC’s data covers the first three calendar months of 2013 and is provided by its Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker.