Tech: Global Smartphone Shipments Topped 1 Billion In 2013

When the history books are written, 2013 just might go down as a very memorable year. At least in the areas of technology and digital marketing.

From the launch of Samsung Galaxy Gear and other “wearable tech” to the first flight plans for Amazon Prime Air to the smashing worldwide debut of the iPhone 5 and much more, 2013 was a year for technophiles and gadget geeks everywhere to eagerly embrace. And for digital marketers, many of these movements – especially the incredible surge in mobile digital devices – mean not only increased opportunities, but an array of new challenges to surmount. And, of course, more and more places to showcase advertisements.

It was also the year we lost the inventor of the computer mouse – and one of the true godfathers of the internet – with the passing of Douglas Engelbart.

And now that 2013 is officially in the books, a worldwide technology first can be officially declared:

2013 marked the first year to see 1 billion smartphone shipments.

This historic precedent was officially realized and recognized thanks to new data from research firm IDC. The firm, which bills itself as “The premier global provider of market intelligence,” added that the milestone represented a remarkable 38.4% gain from 2012’s figure of 725.3 million smartphone units.

The research also revealed that smartphones accounted for 55.1% of all mobile phone shipments in 2013, a number that saw a stunning 41.7% surge from 2012’s figures in that category. In other words, 2013 also will go down as the first year in history that the majority of mobile phone purchases involved smartphones.

To put 2013’s powerful surge in smartphone penetration, ownership and usage into further historical perspective, IDC’s report illustrated that in 2011, total worldwide smartphone shipments clocked in at 494.4 million units. This means, of course, that in just two years’ time, from 2011 to 2013, smartphone manufacturers doubled the number of units they shipped to satisfy customers’ cravings for bigger, better, faster, more connected mobile devices. It’s not like they went from 500,000 to 1 million, either – but rather from more than 494 million to over 1 billion.

That, friends, is a lot of phones. Yet alone smartphones, which are essentially mobile phones, micro-sized personal computers, GPS devices and much more rolled into one compact and increasingly economical package.

Of course, the global population is estimated at more than 7.2 billion, meaning that a little less than 1 in 7 people worldwide acquired a new smartphone in 2013. So there’s always room for more growth, which we fully expect to see in 2014…and beyond.

The report also revealed that Samsung now owns nearly a third, or 31.3%, of the global smartphone market, while Apple, Inc. closed 2013 with 15.3% of the market share. Samsung’s market share grew slightly, from 30.3% in 2012, while Apple’s cut was down a good bit from 18.7%.

Despite the overall slip, Apple certainly made waves and headlines on the smartphone front in 2013, which saw its new iPhone 5 fly off the shelves of Apple stores at record rates upon its debut. Apple sold 9 million new iPhones during its debut weekend alone, and the company said it sold 51 million iPhones in the December 2013 quarter. A new pact with China Mobile could mean even stronger sales in 2014, as China represents a massive emerging market for smartphone penetration and saturation.

A Chinese-based company called Huawei had the third-largest share of the global smartphone market in 2013, at 4.9% – up from 4% in 2012 and just ahead of South Korea-based LG, which logged in at 4.8%.

What do YOU think about the ever-escalating smartphone surge? Do you have a smartphone? Do your clients all have smartphones? And are their websites currently optimized for mobile phone browsing and usage?

Call in with your take in the comments section below this blog post. Or Tweet us your thoughts. We’d love to hear what you think about this subject.

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