The Death Of The "Dumb" Phone Is Near

If you have been holding on to that old flip phone for just a little too long, there is a good chance you are finally ditching it and buying a smartphone for the first time.

For the first time in the history of cellphones, the smartphone is now more popular globally than the “feature” phone, which many characterize these days as “dumb” phones. According to a report from research firm Gartner, smartphone sales accounted for 51.8% of cellphone sales in the second quarter of 2013. 

The dumb phone is being done in by the proliferation of cheap smartphones, most running Google’s Android operating system. 

Smartphone sales are picking up in emerging markets in the Asia/Pacific region, Latin America and Eastern Europe. Asia is the fastest growing smartphone market, showing 74.1% growth with Latin America registering 55.7% growth.

Smartphone growth in Asia comes as a surprise to no one as countries like China and India join the Mobile Revolution in force. Smartphone manufacturers are scrambling to serve these emerging markets as Apple and Samsung take aim at expanding their global footprints. Companies like ZTE, Huawei, Lenovo and LG have flooded the global market with cheap Android devices that in many cases are replacing their feature phone offerings.

Companies like Nokia have been particularly hard hit by the death of the dumb phone. In Q2 2013, Nokia shipped 22.46 million less smartphones than it had in Q2 2012. Nokia’s Lumia smartphone line running Microsoft’s Windows Phone has not been able to compensate for the drop in the feature phone market and its “Asha” cellphone line (that analysts do not consider to be a smartphone) has struggled to replace market share in the face of the many varieties of cheap Androids available on the market. 

On the other end of the spectrum, Samsung is eating Nokia (and everybody else’s) lunch. It sold 71.38 million smartphones in the quarter, 40 million more than Apple in the No. 2 spot and 60 million more than LG coming in at No. 3. Nokia has been especially hard hit by the monster that Samsung has become.

BlackBerry, which announced that it is now exploring a possible sale of the company this week, is now fourth in smartphone operating system market share. BlackBerry sold 6.18 million smartphones in the last quarter and has not seen an appreciable uptick in sales of its new BlackBerry 10 smartphones. 

Gartner expects that 1.82 billion cellphones to be sold this year. If the growth of smartphones continue to eat away at the dumb phone predecessors, smartphone sales for 2013 could top the one billion mark.