Global smartphone shipments soared to a record level in 2013, marking the first time that over one billion handsets have been shipped in a single year. The passing of that milestone represents considerable growth in the industry, with shipments up 38.4% compared with 2012.
The latest figures from IDC show that around 1,004,200,000 smartphones were shipped worldwide, accounting for 55.1% of all mobile phone shipments in 2013, with 817,600,000 non-'smart' handsets making up the difference.
As in the previous year, Samsung dominated the global smartphone market, accounting for just under a third of all shipments. The company saw a 42.9% increase in its shipments, allowing it to marginally increase its market share to 31.3% - way ahead of Apple, in second place, with 15.3% of the market. Apple's market share actually shrank, down from 18.7% in 2012, although it still saw a modest 12.9% increase in its shipments.
Both Samsung and Apple were leaps and bounds ahead of the next three vendors - Huawei, LG and Lenovo - which each made up under 5% of the market.
Ryan Reith, Program Director with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, said that the falling price of smartphone hardware is the most significant factor driving this growth, as well as broader availability of devices with larger screens. "Of the two [factors], I have to say that low cost is the key difference maker," Reith explained. "Cheap devices are not the attractive segment that normally grabs headlines, but IDC data shows this is the portion of the market that is driving volume."
He added: "Markets like China and India are quickly moving toward a point where sub-$150 smartphones are the majority of shipments, bringing a solid computing experience to the hands of many."
Indeed, the availability of more affordable smartphones is a cornerstone of the drive to connect 'the next billion' users to the web, as manufacturers increasingly focus on developing nations to grow their businesses. Earlier this week, Motorola's CEO confirmed that the company is working on a $50 smartphone, and efforts such as this will be crucial if, as Google chairman Eric Schmidt predicted last year, every person in the world will be able to get online by 2020.