iPhone gains on Nokia smartphones for global crown

After Nokia, then Apple, RIM is third in first-quarter smartphone shipments, IDC says

Apple's iPhone is inching closer to Nokia's top spot in smartphones globally, according to first-quarter 2011 results reported by IDC on Thursday.

With the iPhone in the second spot, BlackBerry maker Research In Motion dropped to third after finishing second a year ago, IDC said. Overall, 99.6 million smartphones shipped in the first quarter, out of 372 million mobile phones overall.

Nokia sold 24.2 million smartphones in the first quarter, maintaining its global smartphone lead despite announcing that it will move from Symbian to Windows Phone as its main smartphone operating system in coming years, IDC said. Nokia "may find itself in danger of ceding market share as the competition ramps up," IDC said.

Apple shipped 18.7 million iPhones in the first quarter, IDC said, a new record for a single quarter, "and inched closer to market leader Nokia, with fewer than 6 million units separating the two companies," IDC noted.

Apple also had triple-digit growth in the U.S., with the Verizon Wireless CDMA iPhone 4, and in greater China.

RIM, while down from second place where it was a year ago, remained in third place from the fourth quarter of 2010. The majority of RIM's shipments are older, lower-cost devices, IDC noted, a trend that will continue in the second quarter.

Samsung finished fourth in smartphones for the first quarter, with 10.8 million smartphones shipped, while HTC finished fifth, with 8.9 million shipped.

Samsung grew the most of any vendor for the first quarter -- 350% year-over-year. Samsung has a multiple-OS strategy and sells mostly Android smartphones, including Galaxy S phones, as well as Windows Phone 7 and Wave devices.

HTC also had a record for the first quarter, growing 230% from the first quarter of 2010. HTC offers the Evo Shift 4G on WiMax on Sprint's network and the LTE-ready Thunderbolt on Verizon.

The smartphone market grew by 80% in the Q1 over the first quarter of 2010, partly due to the availability of additional Android devices as well as a range of models in all price ranges. IDC analyst Kevin Restive said, "There is ample room for several suppliers to coexist, at least for the short term."

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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