SAN FRANCISCO, Feb. 13 (Xinhua) -- Market research firm Gartner said in its latest research on Wednesday that worldwide mobile phone sales declined in 2012 for the first time since 2009.
"Tough economic conditions, shifting consumer preferences and intense market competition weakened the worldwide mobile phone market this year," said Anshul Gupta, principal research analyst at Gartner.
According to the research, with smartphones continuing to drive overall sales, worldwide mobile phone sales to end users totaled 1. 75 billion units in 2012, a 1.7 percent decline from 2011.
Demand for feature phones remained weak in 2012 and was down by 19.3 percent year-on-year in the fourth quarter of 2012, said the research. It is expected to keep falling in 2013.
But in the fourth quarter of 2012, smartphone sales rose by 38. 3 percent compared to the same period the previous year.
Gartner predicted that overall mobile phone sales to end users would reach 1.9 billion units in 2013 with smartphone sales accounting for almost 1 billion units.
Among smartphone vendors, Apple and Samsung together raised their worldwide smartphone market share to 52 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012 from 46.4 percent in the third quarter. Samsung claimed the No.1 position in both worldwide smartphone sales and overall mobile phone sales in 2012.
Meanwhile, China's Huawei reached the No.3 spot in global smartphone sales for the first time. Garner said international markets are key for Huawei's growth in 2013, and the company would be able to improve its product mix to a higher tier.
The research predicted that 2013 would be the rise of the third ecosystem as the battle between the new Blackberry 10 and Windows Phone intensifies. "As carriers and vendors feel the pressure of the strong Android 's growth, alternative operating systems such as Tizen, Firefox, Ubuntu and Jolla will try and carve out an opportunity by positioning themselves as profitable alternatives," it said.