Worldwide mobile phone sales peaked at 427.8 million during the first quarter of 2011, and smartphone uptake is predicted to soar as mid-tier products continue to enter the market, according to new figures from Gartner.
Nokia remained the top selling manufacturer, shipping 107 million units worldwide despite a 5.5 per cent dip in market share, while Samsung followed in second place, shipping 67.8 million devices for its strongest ever first quarter.
"Samsung has overtaken Nokia on a sell-in basis in Europe, but Nokia held onto the number one spot this quarter as it was able to burn inventory while Samsung built some," Carolina Milanesi, research vice president at Gartner, told V3.co.uk.
LG placed third, selling just under 24 million units, and Apple was fourth with 16.8 million iPhone sales. RIM rounded off the top five with 13 million sales.
Milanesi highlighted Apple's performance after the company more than doubled its worldwide iPhone sales year on year.
"This strong performance helped Apple consolidate its position as the fourth largest brand in the mobile communication market overall," she said.
"Considering the higher than average price of the iPhone this is a remarkable result, and highlights the impact that a strong aspirational brand can have on a product."
HTC placed seventh with a very strong first quarter, selling 9.3 million devices to overtake RIM as the number two smartphone manufacturer.
Meanwhile, Android continued to dominate the operating system market with 36 million shipments in the quarter, Gartner said.
Symbian remained in second place and Apple followed in third, with 27 million and 16.8 million respectively.
RIM retained fourth position, followed by Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 which saw modest sales of just 1.6 million in the first quarter. However, Gartner noted that support from Nokia is expected to increase uptake.
A focus on ecosystems, applications and services is critical for manufacturers if their device is to become a success, explained Roberta Cozza, principal research analyst at Gartner.
"Every time a user downloads a native app to their smartphone, or puts their data into a platform's cloud service, they are committing to a particular ecosystem and reducing the chances of switching to a new platform," she said.
"This is a clear advantage for the current stronger ecosystem owners Apple and Google."
Despite the strong first quarter sales, Gartner has revised its sales prediction for 2011 owing to a possible decline in demand for smartphones in emerging markets.
The analyst firm now expect sales of 1.79 billion to 1.795 billion during 2011.
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