Technology industry analysts are reporting that the current trends within the smartphone marketplace are being led by two key phenomena -- more low-cost, high-value product introductions and dominant mobile service providers being forced to react to the disruptive actions of savvy competitors.
Vendors shipped a total of 355.2 million smartphones worldwide in the third quarter of 2015 (3Q15), that's up 6.8 percent from the 332.6 million units in 3Q14, marking the second highest quarter of shipments on record, according to the latest market study by International Data Corporation (IDC).
The 3Q15 shipments were slightly below the previous forecast of 363.8 million units, largely due to lower than expected Apple iPhone shipments, as well as Google Android flagship introductions from several top-tier OEMs.
"The vendor landscape and product offerings are really unique at the moment as many markets are seeing consumers become more aware of alternative buying options when it comes to paying for their smartphone," said Ryan Reith, program director at IDC.
In mature and subsidized markets, IDC believes that we now have a wide range of mobile network service providers offering equipment installation plans (EIP), as well as early trade-in options.
At the same time the number of unlocked and off-contract offerings has increased significantly and it's starting to resonate with people that seek better value for the money they spend on wireless communications.
Within these markets IDC says that these moves will put pressure directly on Google Android OEMs with offerings that are greater than $500. Meaning, the demand for lower-cost devices continue to drive momentum. That being said, vendors still introduce some expensive smartphones.
"The third quarter placed a substantial emphasis on flagship devices as vendors tried to outclass each other in both features and design," said Anthony Scarsella, research manager at IDC.
New flagship models translated to fiercer competition at the high-end for most players as many will try to challenge both Samsung and Apple for a place at the uppermost end of the marketplace.
However, despite the market development action at the high-end, IDC forecasts the bulk of volume and growth come from low to mid-range smartphones, particularly in the emerging markets.
Samsung once again remained the overall leader in the worldwide smartphone market with 84.5 million units shipped, that's up 6.1 percent from last year. Samsung remained focused on premium handsets with the launch of two new flagship devices, the Galaxy S6 edge + and Note5.
Samsung experienced stronger than normal September shipments. Outside of the key flagship models, sub-$200 devices -- Galaxy Core and Grand Prime, the J-Series -- drove a majority of shipments in many key emerging markets.