Worldwide smartphone sales to end users accounted for nearly 52 per cent of mobile phone sales in the second quarter, surpassing feature phones sales for the first time as a result of growth in Asian countries like China, Gartner said.
Smartphone sales grew by 46.5 per cent to reach 225 million units, while feature phones sales dropped by 21 per cent year-on-year to 210 million, the research firm said.
"There is one stand out reason for why smartphones surpassed feature phones in the second quarter and that was Asia Pacific where sales grew by 74 per cent year-on-year, and within the region countries like China and India were driving the growth," said Anshul Gupta, principal research analyst at Gartner.
In these countries, low-cost smartphones rule. The average cost of a smartphone in China is about $US120 without subsidies, while users in countries like India, Indonesia and the Philippines pay a little less, according to Gupta. Users pay closer to $US100 or even a little less for their smartphones in these countries, he said.
Much of the future growth in the smartphone sector is expected to come from the low-end segment. For example, in India, only 15 per cent of phones sold during the quarter were smartphones. Because of that fact, much of the innovation going forward is needed in the sub-$US200 segment, Gupta said.
Samsung maintained the top position in the global smartphone market, as its share reached 31.7 per cent, up from 29.7 per cent in the second quarter last year. The company sold 71.4 million smartphones.
Apple was in second place and while the company increased sales to 31.9 million units, it couldn't keep up with the overall growth of the market and its share dropped from 18.8 per cent to 14.2 per cent year-on-year.
Much has been made of rumors that Apple will put out a new lower cost version of the iPhone along with a new high-end model next month.
"A cheaper iPhone device will impact the average sales price negatively. Then again it might help in terms of penetrating emerging markets, but I doubt it will do better than the iPhone 4 which is doing really well in most of these markets," Gupta said.
The popularity of the iPhone 4 has already resulted in Apple's average sales price dropping during the second quarter.
LG Electronics and Lenovo were the two big winners during second the quarter. LG held on to third place as its unit sales grew from 5.8 million to 11.5 million year-on-year, resulting in a 5.1 per cent market share. Thanks to the expanding Chinese market, Lenovo's smartphone unit sales grew by 144 per cent year-on-year to 10.7 million, a 4.7 per cent share, and the fourth spot worldwide. China represents more than 95 per cent of Lenovo's sales.
The top five was rounded out by ZTE whose year-on-year growth was a little more modest, from 6.3 million to 9.7 million and a 4.3 per cent share.
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