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Apple Takes Fourth Place in Worldwide Phone Sales

Apple is now the fourth biggest mobile phone maker in terms of shipments and market share, pushing RIM into fifth place after strong third-quarter sales, according to IDC.

The research firm's latest Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker showed that Apple's shipments grew from 7.4 million in the third quarter of 2009 to 14.1 million in the same period in 2010, boosting its market share from 2.5 to 4.1 per cent.

Apple logged year-on-year growth of a whopping 90.5 per cent to pip RIM into fourth place, despite the BlackBerry maker's market share rising from 2.9 to 3.6 per cent, and shipments rising by 3.9 million to 12.4 million.

The figures will make for disappointing reading at RIM's headquarters after the company launched a strongly worded rebuttal of an attack by Apple chief executive Steve Jobs on the company's performance in the market.

Kevin Restivo, a senior research analyst at IDC, suggested that Apple's growth underlines the huge desire for smartphones in the market and that other manufacturers could struggle to keep up.

"Mobile phone makers delivering popular smartphone models are among the fastest growing firms. Vendors that aren't developing a strong portfolio of smartphones will be challenged to maintain and grow market share in the future, " he said.

Nokia, which has been much criticised for its poor performance in the high end smartphone market, sold 1.8 million units over the period, but saw its market share fall from 36.5 to 32.4 per cent, although it is still number one in terms of overall mobile phone sales.

However, Ramon Llamas, senior research analyst with IDC's mobile devices technology and trends group, warned that Nokia's strength in the feature phone market is being threatened.

"Nokia's grip on the traditional mobile phone market has been somewhat loosened, as multiple Chinese vendors have gained ground," he said.

Overall mobile market growth of 14.6 per cent, the fourth consecutive quarter of double-digit growth, underlines the huge popularity of mobile devices, fuelled in the main by smartphone sales, according to Restivo.

"The smartphone is becoming the focal point of the personal communications experience. As a result, new market growth will be increasingly generated by smartphones," he said.

"This year, we are expecting the smartphone sub-market to grow 55 per cent year over year."

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