Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) benefited the most in the first quarter from rising smartphone sales, according to research firm IDC, boosting its global smartphone market share while Research In Motion (NASDAQ: RIMM) and Nokia (NYSE: NOK) remained relatively stagnant.
According to IDC, handset vendors around the globe shipped 54.7 million smartphone units in the quarter, up 56.7 percent from the year-ago quarter, and outpacing growth in the overall handset market, which grew 21.7 percent. Smartphones also are making up a larger proportion of total handset sales, IDC said, accounting for 18.8 percent of total sales, up from 14.4 percent in the first quarter of 2009.
It was Apple, however, that stole the show in the first quarter, according to IDC. The iPhone maker's global smartphone market share surged upward from 10.9 percent a year ago to 16.1 percent in the first quarter of 2010. The sharp jump is likely due to Apple's expansion into China as well as the lower-priced iPhone 3G, which now sells for $99 with a two-year contract from AT&T Mobility (NYSE: T).
Meanwhile, BlackBerry maker RIM saw its market share go down from 20.9 percent to 19.4 percent. Nokia, which still leads the market, kept its market share steady at 39.3 percent, according to IDC. HTC, the No. 4 vendor, grew its share 4.3 percent to 4.8 percent, and Motorola (NASDAQ: MOT) followed, growing its share from 3.4 percent to 4.2 percent.
Despite the lackluster growth relative to Apple, RIM still has much to cheer about. According to a separate report released by IDC last week, the company muscled its way into the top five group of global handset makers--smart or not--in the first quarter, pushing Sony Ericsson out of the No. 4 spot and down to No. 5, and kicking Motorola out of the top tier altogether.
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Correction, May 7, 2010: Due to a reporting error, this article incorrectly stated that RIM's market share had gone up from 19.4 percent to 20.9 percent. It actually went down from 20.9 percent to 19.4 percent.