Smartphone sales across the globe crossed 1 billion for the first time in 2013, highlighting strong demand for feature-rich mobile phones and vendor strategies to push sales.
The International Data Corporation (IDC) said vendors shipped a total of 1.004 billion smartphones worldwide in 2013, up 38.4% from the 725.3 million units shipped in 2012.
Smartphones are able to perform many of the functions of a computer, and typically have a relatively large screen and an operating system capable of running general-purpose applications.
Smartphones accounted for 55.1% of all mobile phone shipments in 2013, up from the 41.7% of all mobile phone shipments in 2012, IDC said.
In the fourth quarter of 2013, vendors shipped a total of 284.4 million smartphones worldwide, up 24.2% from the 229.0 million units shipped a year ago.
"The sheer volume and strong growth attest to the smartphone's continued popularity in 2013," Ramon Llamas, research manager with IDC's Mobile Phone team, said in a statement.
Llamas noted that doubling the 494.4 million volume achieved in 2011 indicates "strong end-user demand and vendor strategies to highlight smartphones".
Low cost is key difference
"Among the top trends driving smartphone growth are large screen devices and low cost," said Ryan Reith, program director with IDC's worldwide quarterly mobile phone tracker.
"Of the two, I have to say that low cost is the key difference maker. Cheap devices are not the attractive segment that normally grabs headlines, but IDC data shows this is the portion of the market that is driving volume."
In highly populated countries like China and India, low-priced smartphones account for the majority of shipments, according to IDC.
Total mobile phone shipments, including smartphones, rose 4.8% to 1.82 billion units in 2013 from 1.74 billion units last year.
Samsung retained its number one spot in the smartphone industry, increasing its market share and sales volume in 2013. The Korean company's shipments increased to 313.9 million units from 219.7 million units in 2012. Its market share rose to 31.3% from 30.3%.
While its shipments increased to 153.4 million units from 135.9 million units, Apple's market share declined to 15.3% from 18.7%.
The iPhone maker suffered from low-cost smartphone offerings from Huawei, Lenovo and other small players.
Huawei claimed No. 3 spot with 48.8 million shipments and a 4.9% market share, closely followed by LG that shipped 47.7 million units for a market share of 4.8%.
Lenovo shipped 45.5 million smartphones to claim a 4.5% market share.