Sales of cameraphones will grow to more than 1 billion handsets this year, helped by fast growth at the high end of the market, research firm Strategy Analytics said on Thursday.

The growing quality of high-tier cameraphones is making them an increasing threat to the lower end of the point-and-shoot digital camera market, said analyst Neil Mawston.

Sales of cameraphones will grow 21 percent from last year to 1.1 billion handsets, topping the 1 billion mark for the first time ever, Strategy Analytics said.

The research firm forecast for sales of cellphones with 5-megapixel or higher resolution cameras to more than double this year to 361 million phones. At the same time it sees the digital still camera market at 130 million units.

Smartphone vendors, such as Nokia and HTC, are increasingly loading their flagship models with more megapixels to deliver improved imaging quality for premium operator services like augmented reality, Mawston said.

(Reporting by Tarmo Virki; Editing by Richard Chang)