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2/7/2012
11:44 AM
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iPhone 4S Propels Apple To Smartphone Lead

Device launch helped Apple surpass Android specialist Samsung in the fourth quarter, which proved to be a rough period for Nokia and RIM.

Smartphones: Never Too Thin Or Too Organic
Smartphones: Never Too Thin Or Too Organic
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
Apple edged past Samsung in fourth-quarter smartphone shipments and worldwide market share as the iPhone maker reclaimed its status as the world's number one vendor of app-capable handhelds.

For the period ending Dec. 31, Apple shipped 37 million phones, more than doubling its sales from the same period a year ago. The Cupertino-based company's market share came in at 23.5%, up from 15.9% in the previous fourth quarter, according to market watcher IDC.

Analysts at the firm said that despite some shortcomings, the launch of iPhone 4S last October was the main reason behind Apple's surge. "Although the iPhone 4S disappointed some detractors by lacking 4G LTE connectivity and a different screen size, demand was high for the device."

Q3 market leader Samsung, which primarily manufactures phones powered by Google's Android OS and Microsoft's Windows Phone 7, shipped 36 million smartphones in Q4, for a market share of 22.8%.

[ Are there too many choices when it comes to smartphones? See Smartphone Option Overload Confuses Consumers. ]

Shipments were up 275% compared to the previous quarter on the strength of its Android-based Galaxy line. "Its series of Galaxy smartphones continued to expand, with attention to both the high-end (Galaxy S II, Galaxy Nexus) and mass market (Galaxy Ace, Galaxy Y)," IDC said.

The biggest loser in the period was Nokia, which is in the midst of transitioning its product line from the Symbian OS to Windows Phone.

The company was largely absent from the key U.S. market in the fourth quarter as its first Windows Phone offering, the Lumia 710, did not arrive in the U.S. until last month. The company's shipments fell 30.6% during the period, to 19.6 million, while its market share declined to 12.4%, from 27.6% the previous year.

Nokia recorded a fourth-quarter operating loss of $1.25 billion.

Embattled RIM, which once ruled the business smartphone market, saw its shipments fall 11%, to 13 million, in the fourth quarter while its market share hit single digits at 8.2%. It was a tough quarter for the Canadian company, which announced that its BlackBerry OS 10 products would not hit the market until later this year. "Such a delay gives the competition an opportunity to attack RIM's strongholds," said IDC.

Rounding out the top five was HTC which, like Samsung, sells Android and Windows Phone-based devices. Its shipments jumped 8.5% year-over-year in Q4, to 10.2 million, for a market share of 6.5%. IDC said overall smartphone shipments grew 54.7% in the fourth quarter.

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