According to new research, growth in the mobile phone market is to slow down to single digits from 2008 onwards.

Market research firm IDC said that sales rose 11.6% last quarter, when more than 300 million handsets were sold - and that this was a record for any single 3-month period.

However, the growth will not continue at this rate, the company added.

IDC senior analyst Ryan Reith said in a statement accompanying the report: "Over the last three years, growth in the industry during the holiday quarter has fluctuated from 18-30%, and this past quarter we saw it drop to 11.6%".

"The expectation that the market would maintain the level of growth it saw over the last three years was unrealistic. We expect growth to be in the single digits throughout 2008, and most likely for years to follow."

During 2007, 1.144 billion cell phones were sold worldwide, 12.4% more than a year earlier.

In the sales rankings, Samsung overtook Motorola to become the world's number two while Nokia kept its leading position.

Indeed, Nokia reported last week that its Q4 handset shipments were higher than the combined total of its closest three competitors - Samsung, Motorola and Sony Ericsson.

IDC put Nokia's fourth-quarter market share at 40%, Samsung's at 13.9%, Motorola's at 12.2%, Sony Ericsson's at 9.2% and LG Electronics' at 7.1%.

However, Samsung grew almost four times as fast as the market, thanks to high-end replacement models for the United States and Europe, IDC said.

Motorola had to sort out inventory issues in Europe and Asia last year but now could battle again for the number two position with a new handset strategy, it added.