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Cell-Phone Market Growing at Slowest Rate Since 2009

Worldwide mobile-phone shipments will grow about 4 percent this year, the slowest rate since 2009, hurt by the sluggish economy and a decline in so-called feature phones, research firm IDC said.

Feature phones, the basic models that lack the Internet functions of smartphones, will drop 10 percent, IDC said today in a report. Still, the devices will make up almost 62 percent of the total market, the company said.

Google Inc.’s Android operating system will remain the top smartphone software this year, with 61 percent of the market, IDC predicted. Apple Inc.’s iOS will rank second with 20.5 percent, followed by Research In Motion Ltd.’s BlackBerry at 6 percent and Microsoft Corp.’s Windows Phone at 5.2 percent.

IDC projects Android will maintain its lead in the next four years, though it won’t be as dominant. The software will have almost 53 percent of the market in 2016, the research firm predicts. Windows Mobile and iOS will each have about 19 percent.

“What remains to be seen is how these different operating systems -- as well as others -- will define and shape the user experience beyond what we see today in order to attract new customers and encourage replacements,” Ramon Llamas, an analyst at the Framingham, Massachusetts-based company, said in the report.

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