Shipments of iPhones should exceed 86 million units this year, which would vault Apple past Nokia to become to world's top smartphone vendor in 2011, according to Digitimes Research.
While expecting iPhone shipments to soar 82% over last year's 47.5 million units, analyst Luke Lin forecasts Nokia's smartphone shipments will fall to 74.4 million from more than 100 million in 2010.
Even No. 3 Samsung Electronics is closing in on once-dominant Nokia. The South Korea-based Samsung is expected to ship 67 million units in 2011, up 44% from a year ago. Unless Nokia can reverse its precipitous slide with new smartphones running on Windows Phone 7, the Finnish handset maker could fall into third place.
Overall, global smartphone shipments will climb 60% this year to 462 million units from 288 million units in 2010.
While most of the attention goes to the largest vendors, Digitimes' numbers indicate a broadening of the smartphone market. In 2010, the top five vendors shipped 85% of smartphones. That percentage is expected to drop this year to 72%.
Combined shipments from the world's top-5 smartphone companies in 2011 are forecast to exceed 333 million units, which will account for 72% of total units expected to be shipped. The proportion came to as high as 85% in 2010, when the top-5 vendors shipped a total of 244 million units, Lin observed.
Two China-based companies -- Huawei Technologies and ZTE -- are expected to see huge growth in smartphone shipments as they benefit from the popularity of devices powered by Google's Android mobile OS and lower pricing.