Global smartphone sales crossed the one billion mark for the first time last year, a new report has claimed, with separate research suggesting Apple won big in Western Europe.
GfK's report into the smartphone market revealed unit sales were up 14 percent to 40.0 million in the fourth quarter of 2014. Value sales increased 10 percent to $17.2 billion, underlining the competitiveness of the market. Western Europe also had one of the lowest levels of market growth, but it still beat China (flat growth) and developed Asia-Pacific and China (down four percent).
Across the full year, Western Europe saw sales increase by 11 percent to 128.0 million units, worth $55.8 billion, an increase of seven percent.
GfK said unit growth in 2015 would be 14 percent, down from 23 percent in 2014, which it said was due to saturation in developed markets.
Kevin Walsh, Director of Trends and Forecasting at GfK, said: "The 5 to 5.6 inch segment grew by more than 130 percent year-on-year in the last quarter of 2014 and by nearly 150 percent in the full year. In 2015, we forecast this segment to become the dominant screen size band, surpassing 4 to 4.5 inch for the first time."
Meanwhile, a separate report from IDC revealed market leader Samsung saw its market share decline from 42.6 percent in 2013 to 35 percent in 2014, amid furious competition from rivals. It made 51 million shipments last year, down 12.5 percent on the previous year.
However, Apple's share increased from 19.6 percent to 21.2 percent, thanks to a 14.9 percent increase in shipments. The iPhone maker released larger screen models for the first time last year.
Nokia/Microsoft increased shipments by almost one third to 10 million, and increased its market share by 1.4 points to 6.9 percent. It was the fourth biggest manufacturer, behind Sony.
Francisco Jeronimo, European mobile devices research director at IDC, said: "Seven out of ten people in Western Europe now have a smartphone. The success of the new iPhones 6 and 6 Plus, the increasing popularity of phablets and the explosion of devices priced under $150, were the biggest contributors to this growth.
"Last year we saw 28 new brands entering the European market. Their main focus is on low-end and affordable smartphones. This has eased the transition from feature phones to smartphones for those consumers who were unconvinced by the real value of a smart device.
"We continue to see a strong momentum around the new brands that entered the market in the past two years, which combined already represent 6.4% of the total smartphone market.”
According to figures released from the Global mobile Suppliers Association this morning, there are 1,395 LTE-enabled smartphones in the market, accounting for 52.7 percent of total device types.