Smartphones are projected to overtake feature phones in terms of shipments for the first time in 2013, according to a new report by market research firm IDC. The latter estimates that manufacturers will ship 918.6 million smartphones in 2013, or about 50.1 percent of the industry's estimated total shipments for the year.

Strong demand in populous countries like Brazil, India and China will drive much of the demand. China has already surpassed the U.S. as the world's largest market for smartphones and will reportedly account for 301.2 million of shipped units. Brazil and India are only the fifth and sixth largest, respectively, but IDC estimates these markets to grow as much as 129% and 459% by 2017 to take the fourth and third spots after the U.S.

IDC puts total worldwide smartphone shipments at 1.5 billion devices in 2017, about two-thirds of all mobile phones shipped. The research firm sees slower growth in the U.S. for the years ahead noting that this market is already mature, as smartphone users already make up the majority of mobile phone users.

Falling smartphone prices are credited for their rapidly growing adoption. The fact that carriers around the globe are starting to deploy faster 4G cellular networks is also a key factor, enabling faster web browsing and facilitating other high bandwidth uses like audio and video streaming.

  2013 unit shipments 2013 market share 2017 unit shipments 2017 market share 2017/2013 growth
China 301.2 32.8% 457.9 30.2% 52.0%
US 137.5 15.0% 183.0 12.1% 33.1%
UK 35.5 3.9% 47.5 3.1% 33.8%
Japan 35.2 3.8% 37.7 2.5% 7.1%
Brazil 28.9 3.1% 66.3 4.4% 129.4%
India 27.8 3.0% 155.6 10.3% 459.7%
Others 352.5 38.4% 568.1 37.5% 61.2%
Total 918.6 100.0% 1516.1 100.0% 35.0%