RIM kicks Motorola out of Tier 1 global handset listing

On the strength of its BlackBerry smartphones, Canadian vendor Research In Motion (NASDAQ: RIMM) is now the world's fourth largest maker of cell phones, according to new numbers from research firm IDC. The action highlights both the global strength of BlackBerry as well as the dramatically increasing pace of smartphone shipments.

global handset makers market shareRIM managed to kick Sony Ericsson out of the No. 4 spot. Sony Ericsson is now the world's fifth largest handset maker, while Motorola (NASDAQ: MOT) slips out of the top five altogether. The worldwide mobile phone market grew 21.7 percent during the quarter on total shipments of 294.9 million units.

"The entrance of RIM into the top five underscores the sustained smartphone growth trend that is driving the global mobile phone market recovery," noted Kevin Restivo, senior research analyst with IDC's Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker. "This is also the first time a vendor has dropped out of the top five since the second quarter of 2005, when Sony Ericsson grabbed the No. 5 spot from BenQ Siemens."

IDC pointed out that RIM shipped 2 million units more than Motorola, largely thanks to the success of its BlackBerry Curve 8520 and BlackBerry Bold 9700 models across multiple markets, as well as its global prepaid offerings.

RIM shipped around 10.5 million devices in its most recent quarter, shipments that drove its net income up 13 percent year-over-year to $710.1 million. And the company continues to push ahead: Just this week RIM released a pair of refreshed handsets--the BlackBerry Bold 9650 and the Pearl 3G--and promised to ship its new BlackBerry 6.0 operating system during the third quarter.

As RIM enters the global top five listing, competition in the smartphone market specifically continues to heat up. According to research firm Strategy Analytics, RIM ranked as the globe's second largest smartphone vendor, behind Nokia (NYSE: NOK). The firm said Nokia commanded 40 percent of the global smartphone market in the first quarter, with RIM collecting 19.7 percent and Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) coming in third at 16.4 percent.

"Global smartphone shipments reached 54 million units during the first quarter of 2010, accounting for 18 percent of handset volumes, and growing a huge 50 percent from 36 million in the first quarter of 2009," said Tom Kang of Strategy Analytics. "Sales are being driven by healthy operator subsidies, vigorous competition between vendors and a growing tide of lower-cost models using operating software like Symbian and Android."

Interestingly, it appears that Apple may be poised to soon join the ranks of the world's Tier 1 global handset manufacturers. The company reported in its latest quarter global iPhone shipments of 8.75 million--clearly within spitting distance of Sony Ericsson's 10.5 million shipments during the same period. Indeed, Apple has already surpassed Motorola, which shipped 8.2 million units in the first quarter. Of course, Motorola's precipitous fall is not entirely a surprise; the company has completely reworked its mobile handset operations around smartphones running Google's Android operating system.

For more:
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this IDC release
- see this Strategy Analytics release
- see this report on the global handset market

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