First time such an occurrence has happened in the mobile phone market on an annual basis.
Smartphone shipments are expected to outship feature phone shipments for the first time ever on an annual basis in 2013, according to market analyst IDC.
The firm predicts that vendors will ship 918.6 million smartphones this year, equating to 50.1 per cent of the total number of global mobile phone shipments.
Furthermore, by the end of 2017, IDC forecasts 1.5 billion smartphones will be shipped worldwide, accounting just over two-thirds of the total mobile phone forecast for the year.
China is set to remain the world's largest market for smartphones; specifically low-cost handsets based on the Android operating system. “While we don't expect China's smartphone growth to maintain the pace of a runaway train as it has over the last two years, there continue to be big drivers to keep the market growing as it leads the way to ever-lower smartphone prices and the country's transition to 4G networks is only just beginning," said Melissa Chau, senior research manager, IDC Asia/Pacific. "Even as China starts to mature, there remains enormous untapped potential in other emerging markets like India, where we expect less than half of all phones shipped there to be smartphones by 2017, and yet it will weigh in as the world's third largest market."
Elsewhere, Brazil is another key market where smartphone growth is expected to remain high over the course of the forecast, as its economic circumstance improves. "Brazilians have yet to turn in their feature phones for smartphones on a wholesale basis," said Bruno Freitas, Consumer Devices Research Manager, IDC Brazil. "The smartphone tide is turning in Brazil though, as wireless service providers and the government have laid the ground work for a strong smartphone foundation that mobile phone manufacturers can build upon."
With smartphone users now accounting for the majority of all mobile phone users in the US, IDC expects slower growth in the coming years. Similarly, the UK’s smartphone market has slowed in recent quarters as penetration has risen and economic growth has failed to gather significant pace.