Global sales of smartphones to end users grew by 20.3% in the third quarter of 2014, reaching 301m units sold, according to the latest figures from Gartner.
The growth in the smartphone segment propped up the overall mobile phone market, which remained flat during Q3 because of a decline in feature phone sales, Gartner said. The research house said it expects sales of smartphones to reach 1.2bn units by the end of 2014.
"Sales of feature phones declined 25% in the third quarter of 2014 because the difference in price between feature phones and low-cost Android smartphones is reducing further," said Roberta Cozza, research director at Gartner.
In the third quarter of 2014, smartphones accounted for 66% of the total mobile phone market. Gartner estimated that, by 2018, nine out of 10 phones will be smartphones.
From a regional perspective, emerging markets exhibited some of the highest growths ever recorded, Gartner said. Eastern Europe and the Middle East and Africa achieved the highest increase in the third quarter of 2014, with sales of smartphones growing almost 50% year-over-year.
Among the mature markets, the US achieved the highest growth, with an 18.9% increase in Q3 2014. Gartner said that this growth could be attributed to the launch of the iPhones 6 and 6 Plus. Western Europe, meanwhile, saw a decline of 5.2%, the third consecutive decline this year, Gartner said.
Annette Zimmermann, research director at Gartner, said that Gartner expects the new iPhone models to experience record sales over the holiday period. However, she added that Chinese smartphone vendors were beginning to gain momentum and should not be overlooked.
"Chinese players will continue to look at expanding in overseas emerging markets. In Europe, pre-paid country markets and attractive lost-cost LTE phones will also offer key opportunities for these brands."
In Q3 2014, three of the top five smartphone vendors were Chinese, Gartner said, explaining that Huawei, Xiaomi and Lenovo grew their collective market share by 4.1% points during the quarter.
"With the ability to undercut cost and offer top specs Chinese brands are well positioned to expand in the premium phone market too and address the needs of upgrade users that aspire to premium phones, but cannot afford Apple or Samsung high-end products," said Cozza.
"The smartphone market is more than ever in flux as more players step up their game in this space."
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