Sales of smartphones accounted for 53.6 percent of overall mobile phone sales in 2013, and exceeded annual sales of feature phones for the first time, while worldwide sales of smartphones to users totaled 968 million units in 2013, an increase of 42.3 percent from 2012, according to a report from IT research firm Gartner.
Smartphone sales grew 36 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013 and accounted for 57.6 percent of overall mobile phone sales in the fourth quarter, up from 44 percent year over year.
In the smartphone OS market, Android's share grew 12 percentage points to reach 78.4 percent in 2013. The Android platform is expected to continue to benefit from this, with sales of Android phones in 2014 approaching the billion mark.
"Mature markets face limited growth potential as the markets are saturated with smartphone sales, leaving little room for growth with declining feature phone market and a longer replacement cycle," Anshul Gupta, principal research analyst at Gartner, said in a statement. "Lack of compelling hardware innovation has further exacerbated replacement cycles for high-end smartphones in 2013 because consumers don't find enough reasons to upgrade."
The increasing contribution of smartphones was led by growth in Latin America, the Middle East and Africa, Asia/Pacific and Eastern Europe, where smartphone sales grew by more than 50 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013.
China also contributed significantly to worldwide smartphone sales, as sales grew 86.3 percent in 2013.
With a 166.8 percent increase in the fourth quarter of 2013, India exhibited the highest smartphone sales growth among the countries tracked by Gartner, and Latin America saw the strongest growth among all regions (96.1 percent) in the fourth quarter.
"However, Apple's share in smartphones declined both in the fourth quarter of 2013 and in 2013, but growth in sales helped to raise share in the overall mobile phone market," Gupta said. "With Apple adding NTT DOCOMO in Japan for the first time in September 2013 and signing a deal with China Mobile during the quarter, we are already seeing an increased growth in the Japanese market and we should see the impact of the last deal in the first quarter of 2014."
Lenovo saw smartphone sales in 2013 increase by 102.3 percent and by 63.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013. The report predicted Lenovo's Motorola acquisition from Google would give Lenovo an opportunity to expand within the Americas.
Gartner said it expects smartphones to continue to drive overall sales in 2014 and an increasing number of manufacturers will realign their portfolios to focus on the low-cost smartphone sector.
Sales of high-end smartphones are expected to slow as increasing sales of low- and mid-price smartphones in high-growth emerging markets will shift the product mix to lower-end devices. Gartner predicted this would lead to a decline in average selling price and a slowdown in revenue growth.