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Smartphone shipments to surpass 1B this year

Lower prices are the main catalyst for the surge in shipments this year, says IDC, and smartphone prices are expected to keep going down.

Josh Miller/CNET

The world will see more than 1 billion smartphones shipped in 2013, research firm IDC said on Tuesday.

Shipments this year will be more than 39 percent higher than those in 2012 and will soar to 1.7 billion by 2017, said IDC. Though smartphones are close to a saturation point in mature markets, demand continues to surge in emerging markets.

Several factors are behind the seemingly unstoppable growth, according to IDC, but lower prices are the major ingredient. The average selling price (ASP) of a smartphone is expected to drop to $337 this year, a decline of 12.8 percent from 2012. That average price will fall to $265 by 2017, predicts IDC.

Those lower prices will put more smartphones into the hands of mass market users. And those are people who might have otherwise opted for a feature phone.

"The game has changed quite drastically due to the decline in smartphone ASPs," IDC program director Ryan Reith said in a statement. "Just a few years back the industry was talking about the next billion people to connect, and it was assumed the majority of these people would do so by way of the feature phone. Given the trajectory of ASPs, smartphones are now a very realistic option to connect those billion users."