Though the fast-growing tablet market seems to be getting all of the headlines going into the holiday season, smartphone sales are still growing more than half a decade after the release of the first iPhone. Market research firm IDC today released estimates showing that global smartphone shipments rose to more than 258 million units during the third quarter of this year, up nearly 39% more than were shipped during the third quarter of 2012. This number sets a new record for quarterly shipments, surpassing the record 237 million units shipped during the second quarter of this year.
"The third quarter was up substantially over the previous quarter, which was also a record quarter for shipments, showing the real momentum of the smartphone market," said Ryan Reith, program director at IDC. "Price points have declined significantly, driven largely by low-cost Android solutions. 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."
Close to 468 million total mobile phones were shipped during the third quarter, nearly 6% more than were shipped during the same quarter in 2012. IDC credits the industry's growth to the rise of low-cost smartphones in emerging markets such as China. Though Samsung and Apple continue to fight it out for market share at the top of the smartphone market, Chinese manufacturers such as Huawei and Lenovo are transforming into major smartphone brands. According to IDC's estimates Lenovo had the highest year-over-year increase in smartphone shipments, with their 12.3 million units shipped during the third quarter representing a 77.6% increase from 2012.
"Beyond Samsung and Apple at the top of the rankings is a tight race of vendors trying to break out from the pack," said Ramon Llamas, research manager at IDC. "In 3Q13, 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. But in addition to having close shipment volumes, they all have one key ingredient in common: Android. This has been a huge factor in their success, but it also speaks to the challenges of differentiation on the world's most popular platform."