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Sub-$150 devices, emerging markets to drive continuing smartphone sales boom

Smartphone sales are set to grow by nearly one-fifth this year, thanks to the low-end of the market

This year, smartphone sales are likely to hit 1.2 billion, according to new research, with emerging markets driving growth.

Sales will grow 19 percent year on year in 2014, according to new figures from Juniper Research, up from the 985 million units shipped last year. Juniper Research says that the market will be driven to these new heights by the economy (devices costing between $75 and $150) and ultra-economy (under $75) segments of the market.

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Smartphone sales hit 290 million in the second quarter of this year, representing 26 percent year-on-year growth for the sector. However, quarter-on-quarter growth was only one percent.

Juniper Research says that mature markets such as the UK and the US are "stagnating", meaning that growth is coming from developing economies. China (excluding Hong Kong and Macau) and India are the largest emerging markets followed by Brazil, Russia, Mexico, Indonesia, Turkey, South Korea, and others, the analysts say.

Apple and Samsung "continue to dominate the ultra-premium market" but, the analysts say, the two companies "are facing significant pressure from local players in the emerging markets".

Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi, for example, is "witnessing tremendous success" thanks to "its aggressive price-point offerings".

Overall, Juniper Research reckons that the new players are building up market share and will achieve larger economies of scale, which "will enable them to expand their offering and challenge other smartphone sectors in the future".

Established players

Despite the emerging market challengers, the established names are still seeing huge shipment numbers. Samsung accounted for 26 percent of all smartphone sales in the second quarter — an estimated 75 million devices.

While Juniper reported that shipments were up four percent on the same quarter in 2013, Samsung's market share declined both quarter-on-quarter and year-on-year, according to the analysts' figures.

Apple also saw growth, shipping 35 million phones in the quarter — a figure up 13 percent year on year. Juniper Research said that Apple and Samsung will account for nearly 45 percent of all smartphones shipped this year.

Meanwhile, over the second quarter, Huawei sold 20 million units and Lenovo sold 15.6 million.

Juniper Research senior analyst Nitin Bhas said that while the term smartphone is now more than a decade old, it only became popular following the success of Apple's iPhone — which, he believes, "now encompasses a subset of mobile handsets, which range in unsubsidised prices from approximately $75 to over $800".

This makes the categorisation of devices on the extremes of that range difficult, as "at the lower end (sub-$75 and $75-150) the distinctions between low-end smartphone and high-end 'smarter', featured phones... are blurred".

Likewise, at the upper end of the spectrum, $800-and-over phablets fall between two stools, and can be considered as cut-down tablets or very large smartphones.

According to Juniper Research, the average selling price of a smartphone will decline globally to reach $274 within five years.

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