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Mobile phone sales struggled in 2012 despite smartphone boom

Technology research specialist Gartner has revealed that overall mobile phone sales declined in 2012, despite smartphone shipments reaching an all-time high.

The IT advisory firm's latest report shows that global mobile shipments fell to 1.75 billion last year, down 1.7 per cent from 2011.

According to one of Gartner's principal research analysts, the surprising negative market growth indicates that consumers are increasingly shunning feature phones, with sales of the basic devices tumbling nearly 20 per cent.

"Tough economic conditions, shifting consumer preferences and intense market competition weakened the worldwide mobile phone market this year," said Anshul Gupta.

However, smartphone sales reached dizzy new heights in 2012, culminating in the shipment of a record 207.7 million units in Q4 - a 40 per cent year-on-year rise.

Unsurprisingly, Samsung and Apple continued to exert a stranglehold over the mobile market, accounting for more than half of all global smartphone sales in last year's fourth-quarter.

On the back of wildly popular devices like the Galaxy Note 2, the Korean firm shipped 385 million units in 2012 - over half of which were smartphones - while its American rival sold 130 million iPhones.

"The success of Apple and Samsung is based on the strength of their brands as much as their actual products. Their direct competitors, including those with comparable products, struggle to achieve the same brand appreciation among consumers, who, in a tough economic environment, go for cheaper products over brand," Gupta added.

With sales of some 27 million smartphones across the year, Chinese manufacturer Huawei was the third most successful mobile manufacturer in 2012 - year-on-year growth of 74 per cent, Gartner said.