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Growth of the worldwide smartphone market more than doubled that of the overall mobile phone market in the first quarter, a sign the segment is in high-growth mode again. Noteworthy are two facts: Nokia continues to lead the market and Apple finally becomes a viable player on the market of smartphones.

According to the International Data Corporation (IDC) worldwide quarterly mobile phone tracker, vendors shipped a total of 54.7 million units in the first quarter of 2010, up 56.7% from the same quarter a year ago. In contrast, the overall mobile phone market grew 21.7%. Smartphones accounted for 18.8% of all mobile phones shipped in Q1 2010, up slightly from 14.4% in Q1 2009.

Set to Grow

“2010 looks to be another year of large-scale consumer adoption of smartphones. Consumers will gravitate to smartphones not just because the devices themselves look 'cool' and 'slick', but because the overall experience aligns with their individual tastes and demands. Users are seeking – and finding – experiences that are intuitive, seamless, and fun,” said Ramon Llamas, senior research analyst with IDC’s mobile devices technology and trends team.

The smartphone market's growth is impressive too when contrasted to the 38% growth in the Q4 2009, which is typically the strongest of the year. This demonstrates the tremendous potential of the market and the depths to which it plunged in the first quarter of last year.

“We have seen what Palm's webOS and Google's Android can do. This year, we expect updates for BlackBerry, Symbian, and Windows Mobile to spark greater smartphone demand with their offerings,” said Mr. Llamas.

Kevin Restivo, senior analyst with IDC's worldwide mobile phone tracker, said higher smartphone sales this year will be a result of greater awareness, increasingly affordable data plans, and the global economic recovery.

"More consumers are aware of smartphones now due to positive referrals from friends and family and manufacturer's mass media campaigns. Coupled with increased confidence on the part of consumers, these factors will create a perfect storm of demand for suppliers this year, said Mr. Restivo.

Nokia Keeps the Lead, Apple Jumps

Nokia firmly maintained its position as the leading smartphone vendor worldwide during Q1 2010. In addition to introducing several new models – the C3, C6, and the E5 – Nokia announced its first Symbian 3 model, the N8. This, and other Symbian 3 devices, are expected to launch in the fourth quarter of this year. According to chief executive officer of Nokia, Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, Symbian 3 will be more intuitive and fun for end users, and on par with other competitive offerings available on the market.

Research In Motion kept its position as the number two smartphone vendor worldwide on continued growth of its popular BlackBerry devices. Key to its success were its BlackBerry Curve 8520 and BlackBerry Bold 9700, as well as stronger consumer adoption. Co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie recently unveiled the company's new BlackBerry OS 6.0, which promises a smoother and more interactive user interface.

Apple more than doubled its shipments from a year ago, with more iPhones arriving outside its home territory of North America. CEO Steve Jobs announced the latest operating system update, enabling multi-tasking, folders, enhanced email, iBooks for consumers, and iAd, a mobile advertising platform, for developers. A fourth generation iPhone is expected to arrive this summer.

HTC posted high double-digit growth to start off the year, driven primarily by its growing stable of Android-powered products including the Hero, Droid Eris, and MyTouch. The company shows no signs of slowing down, having announced several new devices, including the first WiMAX Android phone, the EVO 4G, slated to launch later this year. HTC also remains committed to Windows Mobile devices, with the HD2 receiving a warm reception and Windows Phone 7 devices expected to launch before the end of the year.

Motorola, having stormed back into the smartphone space in the fourth quarter of 2009, followed up with a new milestone in its short history of shipping Android devices. Now that the DROID and CLIQ (known as the Milestone and DEXT respectively outside the United States) both have a full quarter of availability, the company followed up with six additional devices. The company expects to launch 20 different models and ship 12–14 million Android smartphones this year.

Tags: Nokia, Apple, Motorola, Sony, HTC, RIM, Blackberry, Microsoft, Symbian, Palm

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