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For the first time, smartphones have outsold feature phones as the worldwide mobile market grew four percent year-over-year in the first quarter of 2013, according to data from the International Data Corporation.  Korean and Chinese companies posted the biggest gains, while Apple only saw modest growth.

Total smartphone shipments grew 41.6 percent to 216.2 million units in the first quarter of 2013 compared to 152.7 million units during the same time last year.  Samsung remained the leader in the worldwide smartphone market, shipping more units that Apple, LG, Huawei and ZTE combined.  In fact, Samsung’s smartphone shipments grew a whopping 60.7 percent in the first quarter compared with last year, while Apple shipments only grew 6.6 percent to 37.4 million shipments.

Samsung released its highly anticipated Samsung Galaxy S4 to much fanfare this past weekend.  In fact, pre-orders outstripped many stores’ supply so shipments will likely be delayed.  Samsung said Thursday that its first-quarter profits jumped to a record high as sales of the older S3 smartphone and the Galaxy Note remained strong and shored up profit.

Apple, on the other hand, is seeing a slowdown in growth but still shipped 37.4 million smartphones in the first quarter, a new first-quarter high for Apple.  Growth slowed to the single digits for the first time since the third-quarter of 2009, the IDC said.  Apple isn’t expected to release a new version of its iPhone until later this year.


Aside from Samsung, LG also saw massive growth, more than doubling its shipments in the first quarter to 10.3 million units from 4.9 units the same time last year and jumping to the number 3 spot.  LG has seen growth in its 3G smartphone portfolio, namely the L series and the Nexus 4.  The company’s LTE-enabled devices, including the Optimus G series, also helped growth, IDC said.

“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,” said Kevin Restivo, senior research analyst with IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker. “As a result, the balance of smartphone power has shifted to phone makers that are most dependent on smartphones.”

Huawei, based in China, inched out ZTE for the number four spot, experiencing 94.1 percent growth as it grew its Ascend portfolio.  Huawei also made headway outside of Asia/Pacific region, nearly doubling shipments outside of that region in the first quarter, according to the report.

Chinese phone maker ZTE also saw big gains in smartphone shipments, gaining 49.2 percent in the first quarter compared with the same time last year.  ZTE is planning on launching on of the first Firefox-powered smartphones this year.

As for the overall mobile market, Nokia, the one-time king of the mobile market, saw shipments fall by more than 25 percent to 61.9 million units.  While Nokia is still outshipping Apple, the decline in growth may mean the tides could change in the near future.

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