Total smartphone shipments in Western Europe increased by 6.4 per cent year-on-year to reach a record high of more than 145.8 million units in 2014, with the total value of the shipments increasing by 1.7 per cent to $62.4 billion (€54.8 billion).
However, latest figures from IDC also indicate that the mobile handset market as a whole has reached saturation point in the region, with total shipments declining by 5.2 per cent year-on-year to 174.1 million units. This means that the overall market failed to grow for the second consecutive year.
IDC noted that the feature phone segment continues in free fall, with shipments down 39 per cent year-on-year to 28.4 million units and a total value of $1.4 billion. This is now a niche segment representing only 16 per cent of total units shipped in the year and 2.2 per cent of the total market value, the research company added.
Smartphones are now clearly the preferred form factor in the Western European market, with IDC noting that units shipped and market value both reached record highs in 2014. Samsung remained the top smartphone vendor with shipments of 51 million and a 35 per cent market share in 2014, but its share dropped from 42.6 per cent in 2013. Apple, meanwhile, saw its share of the Western European smartphone market increase from 19.6 per cent in 2013 to 30.9 per cent in 2014, with shipments reaching 30.9 million. Sony, Nokia/Microsoft and LG rounded off the top five smartphone vendors.
"Seven out of ten people in Western Europe now have a smartphone. The success of the new iPhones 6 and 6 Plus, the increasing popularity of phablets and the explosion of devices priced under $150, were the biggest contributors to this growth. Last year we saw 28 new brands entering the European market," remarked Francisco Jeronimo, European mobile devices research director at IDC.
Jeronimo commented that the main focus of the new brands was on low-end and affordable smartphones. "This has eased the transition from feature phones to smartphones for those consumers who were unconvinced by the real value of a smart device," he added. "We continue to see a strong momentum around the new brands that entered the market in the past two years, which combined already represent 6.4 per cent of the total smartphone market."
IDC also reported that phablets represented nearly 10 per cent of smartphones shipped in 2014. Although the average selling price (ASP) of $669 was much higher than normal smartphones (ASP of $428), unit shipments surpassed 14.3 million in 2014, which represented 174 per cent growth from previous year. Samsung, Apple, and LG accounted for 80 per cent of the phablets shipped in Europe.
In terms of mobile operating systems (OS), the market is now divided among Android, iOS and Windows Phone. The other operating systems have failed to establish themselves as an alternative and will risk disappearing or exiting the European market in the future, IDC said.
Meanwhile a separate report from GfK said that global smartphone sales set a new milestone in the fourth quarter of 2014, reaching $115 billion for the quarter. The number of units sold globally increased to almost 346 million, up 19 per cent on Q4 2013.
Total unit shipments in 2014 as a whole increased by 23 per cent to 1.2 billion units, but GfK expects to see growth slow to 15 per cent in 2015. However, the Middle East and Africa will remain a strong growth region, with unit shipments expected to increase by around 33 per cent.
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