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Apple climbs into handset top-five

Apple broke into the top five of global handset vendors by shipments during 3Q, displacing Sony Ericsson and bumping RIM down to fifth place, IDC says.

The research firm says the entrance of a second smartphone-only vendor to the top tier of the market highlights the growing popularity of converged devices, and notes that Apple and RIM posted the highest growth rates of the top five players.

Apple’s shipments grew 90.5% year-on-year, and RIM’s 45.9%.

"Vendors that aren't developing a strong portfolio of smartphones will be challenged to maintain and grow market share in the future,” senior research analyst Kevin Restivo says.

That would be bad news for Nokia, which held onto its top slot in terms of 3Q shipments only due to strong sales of its low- and mid-tier devices.

It is coming under increasing pressure from Apple, RIM and a host of rivals producing Android devices, IDC notes.

It is banking on several new smartphones running the Symbian ^3 operating system to lift its game from 4Q on, however doubts exist as to how successful the products will be following poor initial reviews of the software on its flagship N8 smartphone.

However, Nokia also faces competition in lower-tier devices, as “multiple Chinese vendors have gained ground, especially within emerging markets,” senior analyst Ramon Llamas says.

Rethink analyst Caroline Gabriel said the figures show the battle for positions four to eight is heating up, with RIM, Apple, ZTE, Motorola and Sony Ericsson all playing leapfrog around the 2.5% to 4% mark.

“Before the smartphone boom, there was always a wide gulf dividing the top five handset makers from the also-rans,” she wrote. “Now the smartphone specialists are no longer niche players but are entering the overall cellphone league tables as their devices gain high volumes.”

IDC says the overall handset market grew 14.6% year-on-year during 3Q10, with 340.5 million units shipped.

Nokia topped the list with a market share of 32.4%, with Samsung second (21%), LG third (8.3%), followed by Apple and RIM on 4.1% and 3.6% respectively.

The research firm predicts smartphone sales will drive the market over the next four years, fueled by a 55% rise in shipments during 2010.

Source: telecomasia

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