Google’s Android platform hit a “new milestone” in the third quarter of 2013, accounting for 81 per cent of the 261.1 million smartphones shipped during the period, according to number crunchers at IDC.

This is the first time that Android has passed 80 per cent.

Encouragingly, IDC also said that despite high saturation rates in a number of mature markets, the overall market grew by 39.9 per cent year-on-year.

This is not IDC’s first set of figures for the worldwide smartphone market in Q3 2013. At the end of October, it said that quarterly shipments were 258.4 million, up 38.8 per cent year-on-year: it did not state why it has now revised this number upward (the year-ago figure has also increased by 0.5 million).

While the smartphone sector is seeing growth, the market is shifting, with average selling prices (ASPs) continuing to decline as the appetite for more affordable devices grow.

ASPs were down 12.5 per cent in Q3, giving an average price of $317.

The research house noted that the ASP of phablets is higher than the average, at $443, due to the higher selling prices resulting from “the need for more powerful and expensive components”.

But this subcategory is also seeing pressure – ASPs were down 22.8 per cent year-on-year.

According to IDC, in the most recent quarter phablets accounted for 21 per cent of the smartphone market, up from 3 per cent 12 months ago.

“We believe the absence of a large-screen device may have contributed to Apple’s inability to grow share in the third quarter,” it said.

It was also a case of damning with faint praise for Windows Phone, which “grew an amazing 156 per cent year-over-year”.

“Granted, volumes started from a small base of 3.7 million units a year ago and overall market share is still less than five per cent,” it continued.

Ramon Llamas, research manager in IDC’s mobile phone team, said: “Android and Windows Phone continued to make significant strides in the third quarter. Despite their differences in market share, they both have one important factor behind their success: price.”

“Both platforms have a selection of devices available at prices low enough to be affordable to the mass market, and it is the mass market that is driving the entire market forward,” he continued.

Top Four Operating Systems, Shipments and Market Share, Q3 2013 (Units in Millions)                  

Source: IDC Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker, November 12, 2013