Mobile phone users are on track to buy 1 billion handsets this year, said IDC as part of its report on third quarter sales.

A total of 254.9 million phones shipped during the quarter, an increase of 7.9 per cent compared to the previous quarter and up 21 per cent over the same quarter last year, IDC said. That means that phone makers should ship a total of one billion phones this year, the researchers said.

Growth at the top and bottom of the market is fuelling sales. The trend at the high end is shifting from very slim phones to handsets with digital music players, IDC said. While full-featured phones are drawing buyers in mature markets, sales of low-cost phones are growing in emerging markets.

The top two handset makers improved their market shares. Nokia sold 88.5 million phones during the quarter to take 34.7 per cent of the market. Motorola's share of the market grew to 21.1 per cent compared to 18.4 per cent in the same period in 2005. Samsung Electronics took third place and Sony Ericsson fourth.

These figures emerge as speculation continues that Apple will move to grab its slice of the lucrative mobile market with its own new product releases in the new year.