Taipei, Feb. 15 (CNA) Worldwide sales of smartphones to end users surpassed those of feature phones for the first time in 2013, according to a market report. A total of 968 million smartphones were sold to end users worldwide in 2013, amounting to 53.6 percent of the overall mobile phone sales last year, Gartner Inc. said in a research note. Sales of smartphones increased significantly by 42.3 percent from 2012, the research firm added. They were especially strong in the last quarter of 2013, when smartphone sales grew 36 percent year-on-year and accounted for 57.6 percent of overall mobile phone sales, up from 44 percent recorded in 2012, Gartner said. It attributed the increase to the growth seen in Latin America, the Middle East and Africa, Asia-Pacific and Eastern Europe. Mobile phone sales in mature regions, however, fell due to weaker demand. "Mature markets face limited growth potential as the markets are saturated with smartphones, leaving little room for growth with declining feature phone market and a longer replacement cycle," said Anshul Gupta, principal research analyst at Gartner. Feature phones refer to devices that lie between smartphones and basic mobile phones capable of voice calling and text messaging only.
They are moderately priced and have more functions than basic mobile phones. Smartphones are expected to continue to drive overall sales in 2014 and an increasing number of manufacturers will realign their portfolios to focus on the low-cost smartphone sector, Gartner predicted. This will lead to a decline in average selling price and a slowdown in revenue growth, it added. (By James Lee)