Smartphone sales grew by 20 percent to 301 million units in the third quarter of 2014, with the boom being led by sales of low-cost Android phones from Chinese suppliers, according to Gartner research published today (Monday). China's Xiaomi was the big winner, quadrupling its unit sales. However, total mobile phone sales remained flat at 456 million units, as sales of feature phones fell by 25 percent.
Not all markets were equally successful. Gartner says that "emerging markets exhibited some of the highest growths ever recorded" with smartphone sales in Eastern Europe and the Middle East and Africa growing almost 50 percent year-over-year. In the mature markets, US smartphone sales grew by 18.9 percent thanks to the success of Apple's iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, but "Western Europe saw a decline of 5.2 percent, the third consecutive decline this year".
Android dominated the smartphone market, selling an extra 45 million phones to increase its market share to 83.1 percent. Apple's iOS also did well, increasing its market share from 12.1 to 12.7 percent with sales up by about 8 million units. The losers were Microsoft's Windows Phone - which saw unit sales increase fractionally - and Blackberry.
South Korea's Samsung, the largest mobile phone and smartphone supplier, failed to benefit from the boom in Android sales. Its unit sales fell by about 7 million smartphones, and its market share fell by almost 8 percentage points to 24.4 percent. The winners were the Chinese smartphone vendors Huawei, Xiaomi and Lenovo, which grew their market share by 4.1 percentage points.
In the total mobile phone market, both Samsung and Nokia saw big falls in sales, compared to last year: Samsung from 117m units to 94m, and Nokia from 63m units to 43m. This left Apple (38m units) poised to overtake Nokia.
However, the real battle is between the chasing pack of Chinese suppliers such as Huawei, TCL, Xiaomi, Lenovo, ZTE and Micromax. One or two of these could become global giants.
As Roberta Cozza, research director at Gartner, said in a statement: "With the ability to undercut cost and offer top specs Chinese brands are well positioned to expand in the premium phone market too and address the needs of upgrade users that aspire to premium phones, but cannot afford Apple or Samsung high-end products."