Smartphone sales increased 20 percent to more than 301 million units globally in the third quarter, driven by demand in emerging markets. While Samsung continued to hold the crown shipments and market share, its lead has eroded while Apple, Huawei, Xiaomi and Lenovo made gains during the period, according to research group Gartner.

Regionally, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa saw some of the largest gains, with smartphone sales increasing 50 percent year-over-year. In the U.S., sales surged by 18.9 percent, driven by demand for Apple’s iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, which contributed to the sale of over 38 million units by Apple in the third quarter.

Gartner Smartphone research third quarter 2014 Chinese smartphone manufacturers continued to make gains in the third quarter of 2014 Photo: Gartner

“Over the holidays we expect record sales of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, but we should not underestimate the Chinese vendors and local brands,” said Annette Zimmermann, research director at Gartner, in a statement. “Chinese players will continue to look at expanding in overseas emerging markets.”

Of the top five global smartphone vendors, Xiaomi saw one of the largest increases, with shipments rising 336 percent to 15.8 million units, compared to 3.6 million in the same period last year. Huawei saw a gain of 36.6 percent to 15.9 million units. Those gains came at the expense of Samsung, with sales in China sliding 28.6 percent. Overall, the company’s smartphone shipments fell 8.9 percent, to 73.2 million units.

While smartphones continued to make gains in 2014, feature phone sales declined 25 percent in the third quarter due to the shrinking price difference them and low-cost Android devices, according to Gartner.

The research firm expects global smartphone sales to reach a total of 1.2 billion by the end of 2014.