EGHAM: Smartphones are taking an increasingly large share of the mobile phone market, a new global survey from Gartner shows.

According to the report, total mobile sales - including feature phones and smartphones - rose 19% year-on-year to reach 428m units during the first quarter of 2011. Smartphones alone accounted for 24% of the sales total - which is an 85% increase from a year before.

But Gartner said it remained "cautious" about the overall mobile market's growth prospects for 2011, and revised down its previous full-year forecast due to recent evidence of a "softness in demand" from emerging markets.

Mobile sales for 2011 are now predicted to reach just under 1.8bn units - 12% up on 2010.

Nokia sold 107.6m phones in the first quarter of 2011 to take a market share of 25%, while Samsung was second on 16%. Both firms lost share on 2010, when they scored 31% and 18% respectively.

By contrast, providers specialising in smartphones gained overall share, with Apple rising from 2.3% last year to 3.9% and HTC more than doubling its share from 0.9% to 2.2%.

Roberta Cozza, principal research analyst at Gartner, said: "[Smartphones'] share could have been even higher, but manufacturers announced a number of high-profile devices during the first quarter of 2011 that would not ship until the second quarter of 2011.

"We believe some consumers delayed their purchases to wait for these models."

Also commenting on the results, Carolina Milanesi, research vice president at Gartner, said that Apple's sales performance over the past year had been "remarkable", considering the iPhone's high price point.

Sales of the iPhone have doubled over the year to hit 18.6m units for the first quarter of 2011, which, Milanesi added, "highlights the impact that a strong aspirational brand can have on a product".

But there was also a marked trend within the smartphone sector towards mid-range, mid-price phones.

Android, the Google-owned operating system used in mid-price phones from a variety of providers, including Samsung and HTC, captured a 36% market share, up from 10% in 2010.

Symbian, which powers Nokia phones, was second on 27%.

Gartner said Nokia's decision to retire Symbian and use the Windows Phone operating system instead accelerate the move towards lower-end smartphones.

Cozza said: "This [change] will precipitate a competitors' rush to capture Symbian's market share in the midtier."

Data sourced from Gartner; additional content by Warc staff