Apple Vaults Into Top 5 Among Mobile Phone Vendors

The worldwide mobile phone market grew another 14.6 percent in the third quarter and no single manufacturer benefited more from this fervent demand than Apple.

According to IT market research firm IDC, Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) now ranks as the fourth-largest mobile phone manufacturer, placing it just ahead of Research In Motion (NASDAQ: RIMM) but still well behind handset veterans Nokia, Samsung and LG Electronics.

Still, for a company that's so new to the industry -- the first iPhone was released in 2007 -- the growth is nothing short of spectacular and serves as a harbinger of things to come in the wireless communications and mobile phone industries.

In the quarter, Apple shipped 14.1 million iPhones, up from 7.4 million units in the year-ago quarter and good enough to secure 4.1 percent of the world mobile phone market. Keep in mind, these figures include both smartphones and traditional handsets.

Nokia continued to lead the mobile phone parade, shipping 110.4 million units and 32.4 percent market share, but it only mustered an 1.8 percent improvement from the year-ago quarter, a clear sign that Apple and other manufacturers, particularly those which have embraced the Android mobile operating system, are poised to control an even larger portion of the mobile pie in the quarters and years to come.

"The entrance of Apple to the top 5 vendor ranking underscores the increased importance of smartphones to the overall market," IDC analyst Kevin Restivo said in the report. "Moreover, the mobile phone makers that are 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 added.

With manufacturers and carriers teaming up to push out new smartphone models on a weekly basis, the net effect is that smartphones and the applications that drive their sales represent the next great boom market for the information technology sector.

IDC predicts smartphone demand will drive the worldwide mobile phone market for the next four years and it's expecting year-over-year growth in 2012 of more than 55 percent.

Larry Barrett is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.


iPhone, Apple, smartphone, IDC, RIM