IDC: Apple now No. 4 mobile phone manufacturer

Becomes second smartphone-only vendor (along with RIM) to reach top 5 in global market

How popular are smartphones becoming? Popular enough that two manufacturers who sell only smartphones are now among the top five in the overall worldwide mobile phone market. Strong sales of its iPhone propelled Apple into the No. 4 position among mobile phone makers in the third quarter, according to technology research firm International Data Corporation, which on Thursday announced the latest results from its Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker. Apple bumped SonyEricsson off the top five list for the first time since the tracker was started in 2004.

Worldwide mobile phone shipments were up 14.6% in Q3, which IDC says is the fourth consecutive quarter of double-digit growth. Vendors shipped 340.5 million units in Q3, up from 297.1 million units in the third quarter of 2009. "The entrance of Apple to the top 5 vendor ranking underscores the increased importance of smartphones to the overall market. Moreover, the mobile phone makers that are delivering popular smartphone models are among the fastest growing firms," Kevin Restivo, senior research analyst with IDC's Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker, said in a statement. "Vendors that aren't developing a strong portfolio of smartphones will be challenged to maintain and grow market share in the future." IDC predicts that smartphones will be driving the worldwide mobile phone market through 2014. "The smartphone is becoming the focal point of the personal communications experience," noted Restivo. "As a result, new market growth will be increasingly generated by smartphones. This year, we are expecting the smartphone sub-market to grow 55% year over year." While Apple and RIM recorded the highest growth rates among the top five vendors, Nokia remains in the top position. Here are the latest rankings: Top Five Mobile Phone Vendors, Shipments (Units in Millions), Market Share, Q3 2010 1. Nokia -- 110.4 (32.4%) 2. Samsung -- 71.4 (21.0%) 3. LG Electronics -- 28.4 (8.3%) 4. Apple -- 14.1 (4.1%) 5. RIM -- 12.4 (3.6%) Source: IDC

Chris Nerney writes about the business side of technology market strategies and trends, legal issues, leadership changes, mergers, venture capital, IPOs and technology stocks. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisNerney.

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