Global smartphone sales grew 28.6 per cent to 281.5 million units in January-March, accounting for over 60 per cent of mobile phones sold, the International Data Corporation (IDC) said. Sales were 218.8 million units a year earlier.
However, shipments were down 2.8 per cent from 289.6 million units in Q4 of 2013, IDC said.
A total of 448.6 million mobile phones (feature and smartphones) were sold in the quarter, up 3.9 per cent from 431.8 million units in Q1 of 2013.
Smartphones accounted for 62.7 per cent of mobile phone shipments, up from 50.7 per cent in the year-ago period.
"The first quarter of the year typically brings sequential retrenchment from the holiday spending of the previous quarter," IDC Research Manager Mobile Phone team Ramon Llamas said.
The small difference between the two quarters points to sustained strong demand, driven by emerging markets, low-cost devices and the proliferation of 4G networks, Llamas added.
"The face of the smartphone market is changing rapidly to reflect the rise of its largest market, China...a record 40 per cent of smartphones shipped worldwide in Q1 were bound to Chinese consumers," said Melissa Chau, Senior Research Manager with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker.
In a quarter when global shipments declined sequentially, China bucked the trend, she added.
"Its seasonal Lunar New Year uptick, greater emphasis on 4G devices following the December TD-LTE network launch and the official launch of Apple at China Mobile resulted in volumes a third higher than 4Q13 levels," Chau said.
Samsung led the smartphone market with a 30.2 per cent share (85 million units), followed by Apple at 15.5 per cent (43.7 million) and Huawei at 4.9 per cent (13.7 million).
"Apple reached a new first-quarter record, breaching the 40-million unit mark. The company saw double-digit growth in Japan as well as across multiple developing markets, including Brazil, China, India, and Indonesia," IDC said.
In the overall mobile phone market, Samsung led with a 24.3 per cent share (108.9 million units), followed by Nokia at 11.3 per cent (50.5 million) and Apple at 9.7 per cent (43.7 million).