By Harro Ten Wolde
FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Smartphone sales accounted for 55 percent of global mobile sales in the third quarter as customers in China and Latin America swapped their old phones for the higher end of the range gadgets, research firm Gartner said on Thursday.
Worldwide smartphone sales rose nearly 46 percent from last year to 250.2 million units, it said, while overall mobile phone sales were up less than 6 percent at 455.6 million.
"Sales of feature phones (normal handsets) continued to decline and the decrease was more pronounced in markets where the average selling price (ASP) for feature phones was much closer to the ASP of affordable smartphones," said Gartner analyst Anshul Gupta.
He said he expected smartphone sales of just below 1 billion devices for 2013.
Samsung kept the top spot in the smartphone segment, with a 32.1 percent market share, selling 80.36 million smartphones, up from 55 million in the same quarter last year, helped by its Note 3 large display smartphone.
Apple sold 23.2 percent more smartphones at 30.33 million, but its market share dropped to 12.1 percent from 14.3 percent.
Sales of Apple's new iPhone 5S and its low-cost iPhone 5C model had a modest impact on sales as both phones went on sale in September, the last month of the quarter.
Lenovo took the third spot with a 5.1 percent market share in the smartphone segment, just ahead of LG Electronics and Huawei, with market shares of 4.8 percent and 4.7 percent respectively.
All the companies are in especially fierce competition in the Chinese market, where customers are still replacing their old models with smartphones.
Of the smartphones sold, 81.9 percent were running on Google's mobile platform Android, while 12.1 percent used Apple's iOS and 3.6 percent were on Microsoft's Windows Mobile, Gartner said.
Blackberry saw its user base drop to 1.8 percent from 5.2 percent from the third quarter last year, it added.
(Reporting by Harro ten Wolde; Editing by Gareth Jones)