Smartphone vendors shipped 488 million devices in 2011, overtaking PC shipments for the first time, according to analyst firm Canalys.
The milestone occurred with almost no input from Microsoft, two years after HTC released the first Android smartphone and four-and-a-half years after Apple released the first iPhone.
It came on the back of a 50 percent fourth quarter jump in sales pushed along by Apple's record iPhone 4S sales, according to Canalys.
The smartphone's rise to dominance may have occurred even earlier, given Canalys' inclusion of about 60 million tablets shipped last year in its PC figures.
"In the space of a few years, smartphones have grown from being a niche product segment at the high-end of the mobile phone market to becoming a truly mass-market proposition," said Chris Jones, Canalys VP and Principal Analyst.
"The greater availability of smartphones at lower price points has helped tremendously, but there has been a driving trend of increasing consumer appetite for Internet browsing, content consumption and engaging with apps and services on mobile devices.”
Apple became the smartphone leader in 2011 by Canalys figures, with shipments of 93.1 million iPhones, ahead of Nokia shipments of 77.3 million.
Android remains the most widely deployed operating system, carried by the likes of Samsung, which shipped 91.9 million smartphones last year.
While Microsoft's Windows Phone represented just 1.4 per cent of all smartphones shipped last year, analysts broadly agree that it will become more important as Nokia transitions from Symbian to Windows.
Despite Research in Motion's woes throughout 2011, it remains the fourth largest smartphone vendor by shipments in the world, holding 10.5 per cent of the platform market.