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Thursday, February 04, 2010, 09:50 am PT (12:50 pm ET)

IDC: Apple iPhone was No. 3 smartphone in 2009 with 14.4% of market

Apple's smartphone market share increased by more than 5 percent in 2009 as total iPhone shipments surged by a massive 81.9 percent over 2008, a study released Thursday shows.

IDC's survey of the "Worldwide Converged Mobile Device Market" found that Apple shipped an estimated 25.1 million iPhones in all of 2009, well up from the 13.8 million shipped in 2008. In the fourth calendar quarter of 2009 alone, Apple shipped a record 8.7 million iPhones.

The study also shows Apple narrowing the gap with the No. 2 smartphone maker, Research in Motion. In all of 2009, RIM had 19.8 percent of the smartphone market, compared to Apple's 14.4 percent. But in the fourth quarter, RIM had 19.6 percent of the market while Apple represented 16 percent of shipments.

"Apple's iconic iPhone added another chapter to its short history by nearly doubling its shipments from the same quarter a year ago," the report said. "Demand for the Apple iPhone continued unabated during the holiday quarter, and agreements with multiple carriers within the same market enabled further distribution. The fourth quarter also saw the launch of the iPhone at one of the world's largest carriers: China Unicom."

Nokia remains the dominant market leader, though its presence continues to shrink. While the handset maker represented 40 percent of shipments in 2008, it took 38.9 percent in 2009, from a massive 67.7 million total handsets.

Nokia and Apple currently have a number of lawsuits directed at each other, making accusations of patent violations on both parties' behalves. As the iPhone has grown in popularity, Nokia has retained its status as the market leader, but has suffered significant losses at the hands of competitors.

The rivalry between Nokia and Apple even extends beyond the courtroom, with Steve Jobs last week declaring his company the largest mobile device maker by revenue in the world. Nokia later disputed that claim.

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In fourth place for the year, the IDC survey found, was HTC, which shipped 8.1 million phones in the 12-month span, good for 4.6 percent of the market. Samsung took fifth place, with 3.3 percent and 5.7 million shipments. All other smartphone maekers accounted for 19 percent of the market, or 33.1 million total phones.

Motorola came on strong, though, in the fourth quarter, bursting into the top five at fourth place, with 2.5 million handsets shipped during the holiday season. Riding on the strength of its Motorola Droid, the company took 4.6 percent of the market in the three-month frame.

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In all, 174.2 million smartphones were shipped in 2009, up 15.1 percent from the 151.4 million that shipped in 2008. The fourth quarter alone represented 54.5 million of 2009's total shipments.

"Four of the top five vendors established new shipment records for a single quarter, indicating strong demand in the market," said Ramon Llamas, senior research analyst with IDC's Mobile Devices Technology and Trends team. "Increasingly, mobile phone users are seeking greater utility from their devices beyond telephony and messaging, and converged mobile devices fulfill that need.

"To help address demand, carriers took advantage of lower prices on many older devices, ordering additional units and, in turn, offering reduced prices to end users. It was the perfect set of conditions to push shipments to a record level."