Smart phone shipments outstrip regular cellphone sales

Shipments of internet-capable smart phones overtook those of standard cell phones, or 'feature phones' as they are called in the industry, for the first time in the first quarter of this year, according to data compiled by US-based researcher International Data Corp (IDC).

In the worldwide smart phone market, vendors shipped 216.2 million units in the first quarter of 2013, which marked the first time more than half (51.6 per cent) of the total phone shipments in a quarter were smart phones.

Manufacturers shipped 419 million mobile worldwide in the first three months of this year, of which only 189 million regular cell phones, according to the IDC Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker.

Overall cell phone market grew 41.6 per cent compared to the 152.7 million units shipped in the first quarter of 2012, but this was 5.1 per cent lower than the 227.8 million units shipped in the fourth quarter of 2912.

In the US, smart phones overtook regular cell phones in 2011. Ramon Llamas, research manager with IDC's Mobile Phone team, said on Friday that the shift to a global majority of smart phones is now being driven by consumers in developing countries such as China, India and Indonesia.

Another firm, ABI Research, found that smart phones made up 49 per cent of shipments in the first quarter. Even going by ABI's numbers, it's clear that smart phones will solidly overtake the market this year.

The shift from phones primarily designed for calls, and perhaps texting, to ones with advanced operating systems and touch screens has been a game-changer for the cell phone industry.

Finland's Nokia Corp was for many years the world's largest maker of cell phones, but it has failed to translate that into success in smart phones. It's now the second-largest maker of phones overall, behind Samsung Electronics Co, but it falls far down the list of smart phone makers.

Cell phone pioneer Motorola Mobility, a US company now owned by Google, has stumbled through the transition as well, while Apple Inc has become the world's third-largest maker of cell phones, less than six years after launching the first iPhone.

Samsung and Apple are the top makers of smart phones. LG Electronics Inc of South Korea, HTC Corp of Taiwan, and ZTE Corp and Huawei Technologies Ltd of China jostle for the No3 position.

"In addition to smart phones displacing feature phones, the other major trend in the industry is the emergence of Chinese companies among the leading smart phone vendors," noted Ramon Llamas said, "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 smart phones."