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Apple Bests RIM in Mobile Vendor Race

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In the war to become the most ubiquitous smartphone brand, never rule out the half-eaten apple.

The latest report from the International Data Corporation (IDC) has placed Apple in fourth place of the largest mobile vendors in the world -- pushing Research in Motion down to number five. Ahead of Cupertino are Nokia, Samsung, and LG Electronics. Sony Ericsson -- which was fifth last quarter -- has now been pushed off the list. Apple's market share grew an astounding 90.5% year over year compared to RIM's 45.9%. Of the top five standings, only LG represented a loss with -10.1%.

In the third quarter, Nokia, Samsung, and LG Electronics shipped 110.4 million, 71.4 million and 28.4 million units, respectively. Apple came in with 14.1 million, besting RIM's 12.4 million.

Kevin Restivo, senior research analyst with IDC's Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker, addressed Apple's unstoppable growth. "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," he said. "Vendors that aren't developing a strong portfolio of smartphones will be challenged to maintain and grow market share in the future."

Fellow IDC analyst Ramon Llamas noted the pressure Nokia now has against Apple, RIM, and Android. "Nokia still leads all vendors by a significant margin for converged mobile devices and mobile phones as a whole," he said. "However, Nokia's grip on the traditional mobile phone market has been somewhat loosened, as multiple Chinese vendors have gained ground, especially within emerging markets. To bolster its overall competitiveness, Nokia has been focused on improving its smartphone offerings."

The study also mentioned Motorola's high profile entries in the smartphone race -- though it failed to make the global top five. There were no predictions as to how Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 devices will fare over the next three months.

Overall, the the worldwide mobile phone market grew 14.6% in 2010's third quarter. But Restivo predicts the smartphone sub-market will grow as much as 55% year over year.
POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.