The number of smartphones sold last year increased 6.6 percent, according to new research, despite a fall in the “saturated” market of Western Europe.

Globally, 1.4 billion devices were sold in 2016, largely thanks to year-on-year growth of 17 percent in China.

While over 450 million smartphones were sold in the world's most populous country, the number sold in Western Europe declined three percent to 131.6 million.

Market research firm GfK, which undertook the research, noted that Western Europe was the only one not to register growth in the last three months of 2016.

It said Germany and France both posted declines of 10 percent during the quarter.

Demand in the region was not expected to increase in 2017, it added, as the market reaches saturation point.

Central and Eastern Europe was the only other region to record double-digit growth over the period, as the number of devices sold in 2016 grew 10 percent to 78.5 million.

GfK picked out Ukraine, where improving political stability helped the country to register growth of 34 percent.

Sales rose five percent in the Middle East and six percent in “emerging” Asia, which includes countries such as India, Indonesia and Malaysia.

The number of devices sold in North America was flat, while Latin America registered a decline of one percent.

Arndt Polifke, Global Director of telecom research at GfK, said: “There is no other technology product that is as intensively used by consumers as the smartphone.

“As a result, smartphone demand remains stable even in saturated markets.

“Spurred on by the impressive range of exciting innovations, such as virtual reality, artificial intelligence, smart home functionality, mobile payments and mobile health, smartphones are going to gain further relevance for consumers in developed markets.”

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