**Editor's Note: Click here for our ranking of April's hottest selling smartphones to see how Samsung handsets fared against Apple's iPhone and the rest of the competition.**
Smartphones featuring screens of five inches and larger – such as Samsung's extremely popular Galaxy S5 and Note 2 – are driving a big increase in shipments of these "big screen" handsets.
Analysts at Canalys says that shipments of smartphones with five-inch and larger screens grew 369 percent in the first quarter when compared to Q1 2013, substantially larger than the smartphone market’s 29 percent growth overall over that time period.
Worldwide, these phones represent one-third of shipments, with slightly higher numbers in Greater China and Asia Pacific. China accounts for 35 percent of all smartphone shipments, triple America's 12 percent.
“This is still a market segment led by Samsung, but the trend is unmistakably toward larger-screen handsets at the high end of the market. It held a 44 percent share of devices with displays of 5 inches and above," Canalys analyst Jessica Kwee said. “Consumers now expect high-end devices to have large displays, and Apple’s absence in this market will clearly not last long. It is notable that 5-inch and above displays featured on almost half of smartphones with an unlocked retail price of $500 or more. Of the remaining 53 percent of high-end smartphones, 87 percent were iPhones. Apple plainly needs a larger-screen smartphone to remain competitive, and it will look to address this in the coming months."
All eyes will be on Apple late this summer or early fall when it's expected to unveil the iPhone 6, rumored to be coming in two versions: a 4.7-inch handset that would be larger than the iconic device's current four-inch display; and a 5.5-inch version that would fit in the "phablet" category.
Worldwide, 279.4 million smartphones shipped in the first quarter of 2014. Of these, 81 percent were Android devices, with iOS and Windows Phone accounting for 16 percent and 3 percent, respectively. Samsung remained the leading vendor with a 31 percent share, ahead of Apple at 16 percent. Half of the top 10 vendors, including those in third and fourth place, were Chinese companies: Huawei, Lenovo, Xiaomi, Yulong and ZTE.