IDC: Apple closes in on Nokia as world's largest smartphone vendor

The global smartphone market almost doubled during the past 12 months, according to research firm IDC. The market grew to 99.6 million units in the first quarter, the firm said, up from 55.4 million units in the year-ago quarter, largely driven by the likes of Nokia (NYSE:NOK), Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and BlackBerry maker Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM).

IDC global smartphone market share first quarter 2011

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

"Conditions in the smartphone market are creating a perfect storm for sustained smartphone growth," said IDC analyst Ramon Llamas. "First, vendors are increasingly emphasizing smartphones as the key to their own growth. Second, selection has proliferated from mostly high-end devices to include more mid-range and entry-level offerings. Third, pricing has become increasingly competitive, with even high-end devices available at low price points. Finally, users continue to seek greater utility from their mobile phone beyond voice, and smartphones have been the ideal solution."

According to IDC, Nokia continued to lead the smartphone pack on the strength of Symbian shipments in Europe and Asia. Nokia commanded 24.3 percent of the global smartphone market during the first quarter. However, IDC noted that Nokia "may find itself in danger of ceding market share" as it dumps Symbian in favor of Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows Phone 7 platform as Nokia's primary smartphone platform.

And nipping at Nokia's heels is Apple; Apple shipped 18.7 million iPhones during the quarter, less than 6 million units behind the 24.2 million smartphones Nokia shipped. IDC said Apple owned 18.7 percent of the smartphone market during the period, and the firm pointed to Apple's CDMA iPhone as a driver for future growth.

However, according to IDC, Apple isn't the company with the most momentum. That title rests on Samsung, which IDC said posted the largest year-over-year gain of any other vendor on the firm's list. Samsung's share of the global smartphone market grew 350 percent from the first quarter of 2010 to the first quarter of this year, IDC said, largely on the strength of its Galaxy lineup of Android phones. Samsung commanded 10.8 percent of the global smartphone market in the first quarter of this year, behind Research In Motion's 14 percent and ahead of HTC's 8.9 percent.

"The rise of Android as a prominent mobile operating system has allowed several suppliers to gain share quickly," said IDC analyst Kevin Restivo. "Also, the relatively nascent state of smartphone adoption globally means there is ample room for several suppliers to comfortably co-exist, at least for the short term."

For more:
- see this IDC release

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