Analysts: Apple climbs past ZTE for No. 4 global handset spot in Q1

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Chinese vendor ZTE continued their jockeying in the global handset rankings, with the iPhone maker pushing ZTE down to the No. 5 spot in the first quarter, according to new reports from a pair of research firms. 

Apple ZTE market share first quarter 2011

Click here for market share and shipment numbers for the world's top five mobile device vendors.

According to separate reports from IDC and Strategy Analytics, Apple claimed the No. 4 handset maker slot in the quarter thanks to record iPhone shipments, pushing past ZTE. ZTE had bumped Apple down to No. 5 in the fourth quarter. According to IDC, Apple--which shipped a record 18.6 million iPhones in its latest quarter--claimed 5 percent of the world's handset market share; Strategy Analytics said Apple's market share stood at 5.3 percent. Both figures remain remarkable simply because Apple relies on essentially one model--the iPhone 4--as well as sales of its older iPhone 3GS model.

ZTE, meanwhile, continued to do well in China and Latin America, and has promised to step up its smartphone shipments this year to 12 million units, up from 3 million in 2010.

Both IDC and Strategy Analytics said the overall handset market enjoyed strong growth, fueled by the continued uptick in smartphones. IDC said the market grew 19.8 percent and Strategy Analytics put the growth at 17 percent. "Increasingly smartphones will drive market growth," IDC analyst Kevin Restivo said in a statement. "This means feature phone makers will either need to become smartphone dependent or consolidate that part of the market." 

Nokia (NYSE:NOK), Samsung and LG retained the No. 1, 2, and 3 rankings, respectively. However, both research firms said that all three OEMs lost market share in the quarter.

"It was a mixed quarter for the world's major handset vendors. Some brands outperformed, such as Apple and ZTE, while others underperformed, such as LG and Nokia," said Neil Mawston, an analyst at Strategy Analytics. "LG lost ground due to sluggish feature phone volumes, while Nokia continued to struggle in 3G smartphones and the important United States market."

Samsung shipped 70 million units in the quarter, and fully 18 percent of the company's shipments were smartphones, up from 4 percent in the year-ago period--a reflection of how intensely Samsung has focused on its Galaxy line of smartphones. LG, meanwhile, continued to show weakness in the first quarter, but expects better second-quarter results and a return to handset profitability in the second half. IDC said LG must offset feature phone declines in emerging and other markets with smartphone gains in the future.

For more:
- see this IDC release
- see this Strategy Analytics release

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