The global phone market continued to grow at the end of 2011, but that growth slowed when compared to earlier in the year, according to new figures from research firm IDC.
Phone sales might appear buoyant with a 6.1 per cent year-on-year growth in the final quarter of 2011, but that represents a slackening in growth from the 9.3 per cent seen in the previous quarter, IDC said.
Overall, the number of handsets sold in Q4 2011 hit 427 million, up from 403 million, in the same quarter the previous year.
"The mobile phone market exhibited unusually low growth last quarter, which shows it is not immune to weaker macroeconomic conditions worldwide," said IDC senior research analyst Kevin Restivo.
This was despite the launch of high-impact models such as Apple's iPhone 4S handset, which sold over four million handsets in its first few days of availability.
Nokia retained its position as the top-selling vendor with close to 27 per cent share of the global market in Q4, closely followed by Samsung at about 23 per cent.
Apple was a distant third with almost nine per cent, but the company leapt to this position from being the fifth place vendor in the previous quarter, IDC said, thanks to the continued success of its iPhone range.
However, while smartphones continue to expand their share of the market at the expense of feature phones, the latter still account for the majority of the market.
This is due in part to vendors of these devices now starting to add more smartphone-like features in order to compete.
"To meet the challenge, feature phones are becoming more like smartphones, incorporating mobile Internet and third-party applications," said Ramon Llamas, also a senior research analyst for IDC.
"While this may not stem the smartphone tide, it should slow down the rate at which smartphones are selected over feature phones."
IDC added, however, that the slow in growth of the market can partly be attributed to falling demand for feature phones.
Nevertheless it said it expects to see growth recover to double digits in the future, as smartphones look set to account for a greater share of the overall market.
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