The sales of Apple's iPhones in the latter part of 2011 contributed significantly to the increase in the number of units sold last year, according to the latest report by analyst firm Gartner.
Total smartphones sold last year reached 472 million units to account for 31 percent of all mobile devices sales, an increase of 58 percent from 2010.
For the fourth quarter 2011, smartphone sales reached 149 million units, a 47.3 percent increase from the same period the previous year. Gartner attributed this increase to "record sales" of Apple iPhones, with the iPhone 4S released in October 2011. Apple became the top smartphone vendor in the fourth quarter last year, with a market share of 23.8 percent in the fourth quarter. It was also the top smartphone vendor for the full year, with a 19 percent market share.
Worldwide sales of mobile devices topped 476.5 million in the fourth quarter 2011 for a 5.4 percent increase from the same period the previous year. For the full year, end users bought 1.8 billion units, up 11.1 percent from 2010.
Mobile device market share
iPhone sales also helped catapult Apple to the number three spot in the ranking of mobile device vendors last year, bumping off LG Electronics. Apple's market share last year reached five percent from 2.9 percent in 2010. Apple's market share, however, is only a mere 0.1 percentage point more than LG Electronics' market share for 2011 of 4.9 percent.
LG Electronics' market share for mobile devices dropped to 3.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011, compared to 6.7 percent for the same period in 2010.
Meanwhile Samsung, which maintained the number two spot, had a full-year market share of 17.7 percent in 2011. However, Nokia remains the leader with a 23.8 percent market share.
After Apple, Gartner said ZTE and Huawei were the fastest-growing vendors in the fourth quarter 2011 while Research in Motion (RIM) -- the maker of the Blackberry mobile devices - saw a decline in market share to 2.8 percent in fourth quarter 2011 from 3.3 percent.
"LG, Sony Ericsson, Motorola and Research In Motion (RIM) again recorded disappointing results as they struggled to improve volumes and profits significantly," said Gartner. "These vendors were also exposed to a much stronger threat from the mid-range and low end of the smartphone market as ZTE and Huawei continued to gain share during the quarter."
Roberta Cozza, principal research analyst, Gartner, noted that ZTE and Huawei "expanded their market reach and kept on improving the user experience of their Android devices."
In terms of operating systems (OSes) that run the mobile devices, Gartner said the "competition between Google and Apple intensified." Google developed the Android OS.
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