Smartphone sales around the world in the last three months of 2015 grew at the slowest rate in eight years.

However, according to data released by research firm Gartner, sales still grew by 9.7% when compared to the same period in 2014.

In total 1.4 billion smartphones were sold during the whole of last year, up 14.4% on the previous year.

Gartner Research Director Anshul Gupta said the growth was driven by strong demand for premium smartphones in developed markets and low-cost smartphones in emerging markets.

In particular price cuts by Chinese and local manufacturers operating in emerging markets propelled sales in the midrange and entry-level segments.

Between October and December of last year, Samsung and Huawei were the only two of the top-five handset makers to experience a rise in sales.

Apple registered its first drop in sales, with iPhone sales falling 4.4%, according to Gartner.

Huawei registered a strong performance during the quarter, experiencing a 53% hike in sales.

However, Gartner says Samsung must introduce new flagship models to compete with Apple, if it wants to stall the trend of Samsung users moving across to iPhones.

That said, Samsung remains the number one seller by market share, holding 22.5% of the market, followed by Apple with 15.9%.

Android remains the dominant operating system, increasing 16.6% in the fourth quarter of 2015, to account for 80.7% of the global total.