The mobile industry is on the verge of a major inflection point, based on a new report from the International Data Corporation.
The market intelligence firm reported on Tuesday that global smartphone shipments are expected to reach approximately 958.8 million units.
That's a 32.7 percent increase from 722.5 million units in 2012.
More importantly, IDC analysts predicted that this will be the year that smartphones surpass feature phones in total cell phone shipments worldwide.
Specifically, analysts projected that smartphones will account for 52.2 percent of all mobile phone shipments by the end of 2013.
Ramon Llamas, a research manager on the IDC mobile phones team, emphasized the importance of this shift in the report, going so far to describe 2013 as a "watershed year for smartphones."
If you look at the number of vendors who support both feature phones and smartphones, many of them have not only successfully transitioned their product portfolios to highlight smartphones, but smartphones have become their primary value proposition going forward. In some cases, smartphones have accounted for well over 50% of their quarterly shipment volume. Looking ahead, we expect the gulf between smartphones and features phones to grow ever wider.
The IDC's report on Tuesday is reminiscent with another published by IHS iSuppli last November. That forecast concerned NAND flash memory usage in particular, signaling a major shift that will directly affect supply chain partners as soon as this year.
Nevertheless, Nielsen issued an industry survey in January 2013 positing that smartphones still have "room to grow" in several top emerging markets at least.
As of six months ago, Nielsen found that feature phones, which researchers defined as "devices with no touchscreen, QWERTY keypad or operating system" are far more dominant in India and Russia, covering 80 percent and 51 percent of mobile users, respectively.
Chart via IDC