IDC: More smartphones shipped during Q1 than feature phones

The PC market may be on the decline, but the mobile phone and smartphone market is looking healthier than ever, noting a 4 percent year over year rise in the first quarter.
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor

What's thought to be an industry first, more smartphones have shipped than feature phones, according to latest quarterly data from research firm IDC.

According to IDC, vendors shipped a total 216.2 million devices during the first quarter of 2013. Out of this, 51.6 percent of all total phones shipped were smartphones, representing more than half the market. The smartphone market grew by more than 40 percent year over, up from 152.7 million in the year-ago quarter but 5 percent lower than the December holiday quarter.

Samsung remains the "undisputed leader" in the smartphone market, despite having a huge feature phone segment. Samsung shipped more units during the first quarter of 2013 than the next four vendors combined.

Meanwhile, Apple steadily holds its ground in second place with shipment volumes growing 6.6 percent year-over-year. The iPhone maker does not yet have a 'feature phone' out on the market, but may release a device designed for the emerging market in coming quarters.

LG returns to the top five after hitting record high shipments during the quarter, thanks to its Nexus partnership with Google. Huawei decreased its dependence on its feature phone segment by bolstering its smartphone portfolio. And, ZTE continues to show strong Asia-Pacific and North American performance despite having little impact in the European, Middle Eastern and African region.

By the numbers:

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Image: IDC
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Image: IDC

China is leading the trend in smartphone growth, according to IDC research manager Ramon Llamas in prepared remarks: "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."

He noted that a year ago it was common to see Nokia, BlackBerry and HTC among the top five in market share rankings. Since then, Chinese vendors, including Huawei, ZTE and others, "have made significant strides to capture new users with their respective Android smartphones."

This marks a tipping point in which smartphones are becoming the norm, not just in Western markets but also emerging and developing nations. It also puts makers of feature phone in a tough spot in coming quarters, should they fail to keep up to date with the curve.

But it's not to say the feature phone market is dead or even dying. A tipping point, maybe, but there's still a huge economy in building the not-so-smart phones.

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