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One-Seventh of the World's Population Got a Smart Phone Last Year

In 2013, for the first time ever, the number of smart phones shipped worldwide in a year topped 1 billion. That's about one smart phone for every seven human beings alive.

According to new research from International Data Corp., smart phone shipments grew by a massive 38.4 percent from the previous year, hitting a little more than 1.01 billion units in 2013.

In another first, smart phones also made up the majority of all cell phone shipments (55.1 percent) in 2013. In 2012, smart phones were only 41.7 percent of the total.

Total mobile phone shipments, including non-smart phones, hit 1,821.8 million units in 2013, up 4.8 percent from 2012.

Driving this growth, according to Ryan Reith, program director with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, are large screen sizes and reduced device costs.

"Among the top trends driving smartphone growth are large screen devices and low cost," Reith said in a statement released to coincide with the report. "Of the two, I have to say that low cost is the key difference maker. 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. 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."

"The sheer volume and strong growth attest to the smartphone's continued popularity in 2013," says Ramon Llamas, Research Manager with IDC's Mobile Phone team. "Total smartphone shipments reached 494.4 million units worldwide in 2011, and doubling that volume in just two years demonstrates strong end-user demand and vendor strategies to highlight smartphones."

Samsung and Apple were, by far, the leading manufacturers of smart phones. Samsung, with nearly one-third of the market (31.3 percent), shipped 313.9 million units in 2013. Apple, with 15.3 percent of the market, shipped 153.4 million units.

While Samsung remained squarely in the lead position, it did see a dip in market share in the fourth quarter, but year-over-year shipments were up significantly: 42.9 percent for the year and 22.9 percent for the quarter. According to IDC: "Samsung ended the quarter the same way it began the year: as the clear leader in worldwide smartphone shipments. But even with sustained demand for its Galaxy S III, S4, and Note models, as well as its deep selection of mid-range and entry-level models, the company realized a decline compared to the previous quarter. Nevertheless, the company maintained a sizable double-digit lead over the next vendor."

Apple, meanwhile, saw a record fourth quarter. According to IDC: "Apple posted record shipment volume during 4Q13, driven primarily by the addition of multiple countries offering the iPhone 5S and 5C, and sustained demand from its initial markets that saw these models launch at the end of 3Q13. Still, Apple had the lowest year-on-year increase of all the leading vendors. Now that Apple has finally arrived at China Mobile, it remains to be seen how much Apple will close the gap against Samsung in 2014."

Huawei, LG and Lenovo made up the rest of the top 5. Huawei had a 4.9 percent market share on 48.8 million units; LG had a 4.8 percent share on 47.7 million units; and Lenovo had a 4.5 share on 45.5 million units.

However, the top 5 hardly tell the entire story. The "others" category made up 39.3 percent of the market, shipping about 394.9 million units. That represents 25.6 percent growth for manufacturers outside of the top 5, along with a slight increase (0.4 points) in total market share.

About the Author

David Nagel is editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Technology Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal and STEAM Universe. A 29-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art and business publications.

He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at or follow him on Twitter at @THEDavidNagel (K-12) or @CampusTechDave (higher education).

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