Global smartphone sales grew 20.3 per cent in the third quarter of 2014, fuelled by record growth in emerging markets, according to Gartner.
The latest figures from the analyst firm showed that while total mobile phone sales remained flat (455.8 million), smartphones accounted for an increasing share. Around 301 million smartphones were sold during the period, up from 250.3 million in Q3 2013.
As a result, smartphones accounted for 66 per cent of the total market, which Gartner believes will grow to 90 per cent by 2018. Smartphone sales are estimated to reach 1.2 billion during 2014.
The growth in smartphone volume was offset by a 25 per cent decline in feature phone sales, which Gartner research director Roberta Cozza attributed to the narrowing gap between prices for feature phones and low-cost Android smartphones.
The research found that Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa achieved their highest-ever recorded growth of smartphone sales, with sales growing by almost 50 per cent year-on-year.
As for more mature markets, the US achieved the highest growth of 18.9 per cent, fuelled by the launch of the iPhone 6 models during the period. However, Western Europe continued to decline with a 5.2 per cent fall in sales.
Annette Zimmermann, research director at Gartner, said Chinese players will continue to look at expanding into overseas emerging markets.
The companies ranked third to fifth in terms of smartphone sales were all Chinese, with Huawei, Xiaomi and Lenovo seeing their combined share rise by 4.1 percentage points. The annual sales growth seen by Xiaomi was a spectacular 336 per cent, leaving three players separated by less than a million units.
Smartphone market leader Samsung saw its share fall to 24.4 per cent from 32.1 per cent in Q3 2013 as it sold 73.2 million units in Q3 2014, compared with 80.4 million a year earlier. In China, Samsung’s biggest market, smartphone sales fell 28.6 per cent.
Apple’s share increased slightly from 12.1 per cent in Q3 2013 to 12.7 per cent a year later. It sold 38.2 million units compared with 30.3 million a year ago.
The combined market share of Samsung and Apple was 37.1 per cent, down seven percentage points year-on-year.
Gartner’s Cozza said the Chinese brands are well positioned to expand into the
premium phone market and address the needs of upgrade customers who cannot afford high-end Apple or Samsung devices, due to their ability to offer top specs and undercut rivals on cost.
“The smartphone market is more than ever in flux as more players step up their game in this space,” Cozza noted.
Looking at overall mobile phone sales, Samsung continued to lead the way but had its market share whittled down to 20.6 per cent (from 25.7 per cent), as its feature phone share also declined (by 10.8 per cent).
Nokia kept second place in the sales charts but saw its share fall from 13.8 per cent to 9.5 per cent. In terms of volume, the Microsoft-owned brand saw a decline of almost 20 million units to 43.1 million. Apple, in third place, closed the gap on Nokia, with 38.2 million units sold.