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Smartphone Sales Surpass Feature Phones in 2013

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The latest numbers from Gartner confirmed what we've believed to be true for awhile now: Most people around the world are choosing smartphones rather than old fashioned "feature" phones.

Gartner reported smartphone sales accounted for 53.6% of overall mobile phone sales in 2013, and exceeded annual sales of feature phones for the first time. Worldwide sales of smartphones reached 968 million units in 2013. That's an increase of 42.3% over 2012 numbers.

Fourth-quarter numbers show an overall increase of smartphone sales of 55% year over year with the largest growth coming in Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, Asia-Pacific and Eastern Europe. India registered a 166.8% increase in the fourth quarter. China sales grew 86.3%.

Although only available in a limited number of markets,  Lenovo rose to fourth place in the last quarter finishing ahead of LG, but behind Samsung, Apple  (AAPL - Get Report) and China's Huawei.

When sales are measured by operating systems,  Google's (GOOG - Get Report) Android made large gains in 2013. So did Microsoft's  (MSFT) Windows Phone OS. Apple's iOS and BlackBerry (BBRY) market share fell in the same period.

When you add smartphone and feature phone sales together, the order of finish is different. In 2013, all types of Nokia  (NOK) phones continued to outsell Apple phones worldwide. But note that Apple's market share increased over 2012 while Nokia sales declined.

In what are known as "mature" sales regions such as North America and Western Europe, mobile phone sales actually fell in 2013 due to weaker demand.

"Mature markets face limited growth potential as the markets are saturated with smartphone sales," according to Gartner's principal research analyst Anshul Gupta. "Lack of compelling hardware innovation has further exacerbated replacement cycles for high-end smartphones in 2013 because consumers don't find enough reasons to upgrade."

-- Written by Gary Krakow in New York.

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