Apple vaults past RIM and into top 5 handset maker listings

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) jumped past BlackBerry maker Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) to become the world's No. 4 handset maker in the third quarter, according to several research firms. The move marks Apple's entrance into the world's top 5 handset vendor rankings.

The global handset market share in third quarter 2010According to both Strategy Analytics and IDC, Apple grabbed the No. 4 spot and pushed RIM down to No. 5. Apple shipped a record 14.1 million iPhone units in the quarter, ahead of RIM's 12.4 million unit shipments. Apple's ascent into the top 5 is notable not only because it signifies the growing importance of smartphones in the overall handset market, but because the company has essentially relied on one model to propel its growth.

Sony Ericsson, for years a mainstay in the top tier of handset vendors, dropped out of the rankings. RIM shook up the order when it pushed Motorola (NYSE:MOT) out of the top 5 in April.

"The entrance of Apple to the top five underscores the increased importance of smartphones to the overall market," IDC analyst Kevin Restivo said in the firm's report. "Vendors that aren't developing a strong portfolio of smartphones will be challenged to grow and retain market share in the future."

Strategy Analytics said the overall handset market grew 13 percent in the third quarter, slower than the 16 percent in the first half. The research firm said it expects growth to slow in the fourth quarter to 10 percent.

Both research firms said Nokia (NYSE:NOK) and LG lost market share in the quarter, while Samsung grew its share slightly. 

For more:
- see this special report on the global handset market in Q3
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this Reuters article
- see this ABI Research release

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