Mobile phone history has been made: For the first time, smartphones have outsold feature phones, in what IDC called a "seasonally slow" first quarter.
According to IDC, 418.6 million mobile phones were shipped in Q1 2013, including 216.2 million smartphones — more than half of the total market.
Smartphone growth rose more than 41 per cent in the first quarter, but fell about 5 per cent from the last three months of 2012.
"Phone users want computers in their pockets. The days where phones are used primarily to make phone calls and send text messages are quickly fading away," IDC analyst Kevin Restivo said in a statement. "As a result, the balance of smartphone power has shifted to phone makers that are most dependent on smartphones."
Android heavyweight Samsung was the undisputed handset leader, shipping more units than Apple, LG, Huawei, and ZTE combined with 70.7 million; and that's before the arrival of its new flagship Galaxy S4. What remains to be seen, IDC pointed out, is how the South Korean company's new Tizen-powered devices will fare later this year.
For the fifth consecutive quarter, the second-place crown went to Apple, which hit a new first-quarter high, growing 6.6 per cent year over year, thanks in part to the iPhone 5. Cupertino shipped 37.4 million iPhones, up slightly from 35.1 million last year.
LG made a triumphant return to the market's top five after a two-quarter absence, also reaching a record-high shipment of 10.3 million in the process. With a little help from the 3G-based L series and Nexus 4, as well as LTE-enabled devices like the Optimus G series, LG regained its footing, and IDC expects the upcoming launch of the F and L series will keep it there.
Another major trend in the mobile industry is the emergence of Chinese companies at the top of the vendors market, according to Ramon Llamas, research manager with IDC's mobile phone team.
"A year ago, it was common to see previous market leaders Nokia, BlackBerry, and HTC among the top five," he said. "While those companies have been in various stages of transformation since, Chinese vendors, including Huawei and ZTE as well as Coolpad and Lenovo, have made significant strides to capture new users with their respective Android smartphones."
Landing in fourth place, Huawei remained stagnant, making no significant improvements in the market, IDC said. At No. 5, competitor ZTE made a strong showing in the Asia/Pacific region and North America, but reported a small presence elsewhere.