For the first time in history, smartphones are outselling feature phones. According to a new report from International Data Corporation, more than half of the phones sold in the first quarter of 2013 worldwide were smartphones. The move is one that the market had expected but it seemed unlikely when Apple Inc (NASDAQ:AAPL) released the iPhone in 2007.


According to the IDC, 418.6 million phones were sold in the first three months of 2013, and 216.2 million of those were smartphones. The biggest seller in the smart phone world was, of course Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. (LON:BC94) (KRX:005930). The company sold more than 70 million phones in the first three months of the year, beating its three closest rivals combined.

Second place once again belonged to Apple Inc (NASDAQ:AAPL). Because the company sells just one kind of phone, a premium smart phone, its second place position is at least as impressive as the first place Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. (LON:BC94) (KRX:005930) managed, and it is, of course, much more profitable.

The news represents a big change in the way people use computers, and belies the coming extinction of the feature phone market. Once one of the big companies in the smart phone market decides to make phones that are as durable and long lasting as feature phones, there will be very little demand for the models, even in the developing world.

Several companies, with Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. (LON:BC94) (KRX:005930) at the forefront, sell a range of smartphones, starting at the top with premium models like the Galaxy S4, and finishing with very basic smartphones that are pinned at relatively similar prices to feature phones.

That ability to make smartphones that cost less than $100 is, arguably, more of a revolution than the creation of the smart phone in the first place. In the early years of the millennium there was a great deal of excitement around, and support for, a laptop that would cost $100. The device was to be deployed in developing countries to give people, especially children, a way to access technology.

That change is now occurring, but it is not a non-profit that has managed it. It has been the work of Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. (LON:BC94) (KRX:005930), and its contemporaries and it’s work that will continue until the smart phone is replaced by the next big idea.