FRAMINGHAM, MA: Global smartphone shipments were up 6.8% in the third quarter as consumers took advantage of a range of buying options, according to the latest data from International Data Corporation.

The researcher's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker indicated that a total of 355.2m smartphones were shipped by vendors in the third quarter of 2015, up from 332.6m a year earlier, making it the second highest quarter on record.

IDC had forecast even higher figures and attributed the reduced total to lower than expected iPhone shipments, as well as Android flagship introductions from several top-tier OEMs with price points outside the consumer sweet spot.

"The vendor landscape and product offerings are really unique at the moment as many markets are seeing consumers become more aware of alternative buying options when it comes to paying for their smartphone," said Ryan Reith, program director/Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker.

Those ranged from assorted equipment installation plans and early trade-in options from operators to unlocked/off-contract offerings. The latter were starting to resonate with consumers, he added, and the alternatives now becoming available were pressuring top-end Android offerings – those costing more than $500.

His colleague Anthony Scarsella, research manager/mobile phones, observed an emphasis on flagship devices – "as vendors tried to outclass each other in both features and design" – but said most volume and growth would come in the mid- to low-end of the market, especially in emerging markets.

Samsung and Apple continue to dominate the global market, but while Samsung's share has remained broadly static over the past year, at 23.8%, Apple's has increased from 11.8% to 13.5%, helped by a record-breaking launch week for its iPhone 6S and 6S Plus when 13m units were shipped.

IDC also noted that Apple's new upgrade plan should drive handset upgrades in developed markets where smartphone saturation continues to increase.

Chinese brands are leading the charge among the remaining vendors, with Huawei registering a 60.9% increase in shipments from Q3 2014, taking its share to 7.5% from 5.0%. So far most of its growth has come in China and Europe but IDC suggested that new product launches could signal a serious attempt on the US market.

Lenovo's acquisition of the Motorola brand in 2014 has helped push its combined shipments up 11.1%, while their share stands at 5.3%.

Xiaomi saw a more modest 5.8% increase in shipments while its share remained steady on 5.2%.

Data sourced from IDC; additional content by Warc staff