Smartphone vendors shipped a record 258.4 million units in Q3, according to research firm IDC, beating the previous record set in Q2 2013 by 9 per cent.

“Price points have declined significantly, driven largely by low-cost Android solutions,” said Ryan Reith, IDC program director. “This has helped China to become one of the fastest growing smartphone markets in the world, accounting for more than one third of all shipments last quarter. We expect this trend to continue going forward.”

Huawei, Lenovo and LG each posted year-on-year increases in excess of 70 per cent for smartphone shipments, but the three suppliers are some way behind runaway leader Samsung and number two Apple (see table).

“Beyond Samsung and Apple at the top of the [smartphone] rankings is a tight race of vendors trying to break out from the pack,” said Ramon Llamas, an IDC research manager. “In Q3 2013, Chinese vendors Huawei and Lenovo moved past LG, and not far behind are two more Chinese companies, Coolpad and ZTE. Any of these vendors could change position again next quarter.”

Common to the chasing pack is Android. “This has been a huge factor in their success,” added Llamas, “but it also speaks to the challenges of differentiation on the world’s most popular platform.”

IDC anticipates another record Q4 in the run-up to Christmas. “With already strong growth in Q3 2013 and multiple vendors launching flagship models, the market will be poised to reach one billion units for the year,” predicted Llamas. “It’s a significant milestone considering the market shipped just half a billion units in 2011.”

Vendor highlights
Samsung shipped more smartphones during Q3 than the next four vendors combined. Despite the popularity of the vendor’s flagship models, however, IDC says it was the company’s long line of mass-market smartphones that helped fuel volumes to reach a new record level.

Apple is still going strong with total volumes reflecting the early success of the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c. Although limited usability on the fingerprint sensor and higher-than-expected pricing on the iPhone 5c drew mixed reactions, IDC says it still didn’t prevent the devices enjoying a record 9 million units shipped at their debut.

Huawei returned to the list of top five vendors after a one-quarter hiatus, narrowly beating out Lenovo and LG. The research firm points out that Huawei relied on Asia-Pacific for the bulk of its shipment volumes, but the company continued to make headway into Europe and the Americas with volumes exceeding one million units in each region.

Lenovo posted the largest year-over-year increase among the leading vendors, enough to push past LG to claim the number four position worldwide. The company relied on its stronghold in Asia/Pacific, and particularly China, where the overwhelming majority of its smartphones went. Lenovo has also made continued progress in other markets,
pushing into Latin America and EMEA.

LG slipped to fifth place, but nevertheless posted strong double-digit year-over-year smartphone growth (72.2 per cent). Although volumes were flat from the previous quarter (12.0 million units), IDC says LG’s product portfolio shows continued maturity at the high-end of the market.