The latest GfK report on global smartphone sales shows that smartphones with 5-inch screens or larger, 4G and priced lower than US$250 are all increasing market share around the world.

In the first quarter of 2015 global smartphone sales were up 8 per cent year-on-year in value terms and up 7 per cent year-on-year to 310 million units, but a slowdown in demand in China and Developed Asia meant growth was more subdued than the in the fourth quarter of 2014.

In the Developing Asia region — which includes Australia and New Zealand – smartphone sales were down 5 per cent in terms in units to 17.4 million, and value was down 5 per cent to US$10.1 billion.

“In Developed Asia, the year-on-year decline was caused by tough comparisons with Q1 2014, when demand was pulled forward in Japan due to an upcoming VAT [value-added tax] increase in April. We forecast unit demand in Developed Asia to grow by 3 per cent year-on-year in 2015, driven by Japan and South Korea, which are expected to return to growth in 2Q 2015,” said Kevin Walsh, director of trends and forecasting at GfK.

The trend of larger screen sizes continued in the first quarter of 2015; 166 million smartphones with a screen 5-inches or larger made up 47 per cent of the global smartphone market. That figure is up from 32 per cent in corresponding quarter in 2014.

In North America, share of large screen devices was 70 per cent in the quarter, up from 59 per cent in the same period last year, driven by strong demand for high-end models. GfK reported that by comparison in China, where the trend is particularly pronounced, the growth in share to 57 per cent — from 32 per cent in Q1 2014 — driven by cheaper large screen models flooding into the market.

GfK forecasts this screen size migration to continue in 2015, with global demand for large screen devices increasing by 30 per cent year-on-year to account for 69 per cent of total smartphone unit demand this year.

4G is also rapidly gaining share – surpassing 50 per cent of the global handset market for the first time. Growth was buoyed by the continued price erosion of 4G smartphones and GfK forecasts global 4G share to increase further in 2015, reaching 59 percent in Q4 2015.

In pricing, low-end smartphones — those priced in the region of US$0-250 — increased share to 56 per cent, up from 52 per cent in Q4 2014, at the expense of the high-end models (US$500+), whilst mid-range (US$250-500) share remained stable. GfK forecasts low-end smartphones to gain further share in 2015, helped by continued price erosion in emerging markets.

Looking forward, GfK expects the market to continue to grow, but at a slower pace than previous years.

“GfK forecasts global smartphone unit demand to grow 10 per cent year-on-year in 2015, a slowdown from the 23 per cent growth experienced last year,” Walsh said. “Emerging Asia is forecast to be the fastest growing region, driven by India and Indonesia, where low smartphone penetration leaves plenty of room for growth.”