Global cellphone sales surged 18 percent from a year ago in October-December, boosted by strong growth of North American smartphone vendors Apple and RIM.
Mobile phone users are eager to swap out older devices for ones that handle data as well as voice, which is driving growth and replacement cycles, IDC analyst Kevin Restivo said in a statement.
The phone market has recovered from a slump in 2009 when the global economic slowdown dampened demand for the latest gadgets. Demand has surged for new smartphones like Apple's iPhone 4 and Samsung's Galaxy S. All vendors in total sold 401 million phones in the quarter, IDC said.
Strong sales also of cheaper cellphones in China, Africa and Latin America helped to lift China's ZTE Corp to the fourth-largest position -- following only Nokia, Samsung and LG -- for the first time ever, IDC said.
While most of its shipments have historically concentrated on entry-level and mid-range devices, some of its recent success is directly attributable to its rapidly expanding smartphone line, the research firm said.
Among top phone vendors Nokia, LG, Motorola Mobility and Sony Ericsson all reported declining sales for the quarter, losing market share to smartphone vendors Apple and RIM on the high-end of the market.
(Reporting by Tarmo Virki; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)