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Smartphone shipments to surpass feature phones this year

As shipments rise 32 percent, smartphones will account for 52 percent of all mobile phones shipped worldwide in 2013, according to IDC.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Smartphone shipments will finally outshine those of feature phones this year, says research firm IDC.

Smartphones are expected to carve off a 52.2 percent slice of all mobile phones shipped in 2013, leaving feature phones with a 47.8 percent share, IDC said Tuesday. Smartphone shipments are projected to hit 958.8 million this year, a 32.7 percent jump from the 722.5 million units shipped in 2012.

The gap between shipments of smartphones and feature phones will continue to expand, IDC said, as demand for mobile data increases in both developed and developing countries. Emerging markets will actually account for 64.8 percent of smartphones shipped this year, up from 43 percent in 2010.

"2013 will mark a watershed year for smartphones," Ramon Llamas, research manager for IDC's mobile phones program, said in a statement. "If you look at the number of vendors who support both feature phones and smartphones, many of them have not only successfully transitioned their product portfolios to highlight smartphones, but smartphones have become their primary value proposition going forward. In some cases, smartphones have accounted for well over 50 percent of their quarterly shipment volume."

The growth of smartphones has been fueled not only by strong user demand but also greater attention from vendors and carriers and a wider variety of devices sold at different prices. The average selling price of a smartphone has fallen to $372 so far this year, down from $407 in 2012 and $443 in 2011. That average price is expected to drop to as low as $309 by 2017, according to IDC.

"Smartphones have become increasingly common in emerging markets and it is often the first affordable means of computing for these markets," Ryan Reith, program manager for IDC's Mobility Trackers, said in a statement. "These are markets where average personal income is far less than in developed markets, and therefore vendors have been forced to create smartphone computing experiences for the low end of the market."