Smartphone shipments hit 1 billion in 2013, says IDC

Android dominated the market, Apple saw modest growth and Windows Phone shipments almost doubled

The world's love affair with the smartphone continued unabated in 2013 with consumers snapping up more than 1 billion handsets during the year, according to an IDC estimate published on Wednesday.

The figure, which represents a new smartphone for roughly one out of every seven people on the planet, is all the more impressive when it's compared to the year before. In 2012, total shipments were 725 million phones, so last year saw an additional 275 million smartphones sold -- a jump of 39 percent over 2012.

"I think there is still some energy to be had," said Ramon Llamas, one of the IDC analysts who worked on the report. "Last year we saw pretty similar growth. It bodes well for the market."

IDC estimated that 79 percent of smartphones shipped in 2013 -- just under four out of every five -- were running Android.

In the global market, second-ranked Apple iOS isn't even close. Apple devices accounted for just over 15 percent of shipments at 153 million, an increase of 13 percent on the previous year.

However, the Apple number compared to Android isn't perhaps as bad as it seems. The company managed that market share from a handful of phones that are generally the most expensive on sale in any market.

The IDC numbers contained some good news for Microsoft. Windows Phone shipments rose to 33 million, just under double what they were in 2012. BlackBerry OS saw its share slide by 40 percent to 19 million handsets.

Looking ahead, IDC cautioned that it believes double-digit growth has only a few more years to go before it slows down.

While all of the headlines and marketing is focused on flagship phones -- the latest iPhone, Samsung's Galaxy Note 3, the HTC One and the like -- increasingly phone makers will be looking to cheaper handsets to keep the market expanding.

"The question is where is the growth coming from?," said Llamas. "It's going to be in the low end. The sub-$100, sub-$50 and even sub-$25 phones, especially in emerging markets."

Many of those phones run Android.

The operating system is offered at no cost by Google, which has made it popular with companies producing low-cost handsets.

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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