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Tuesday, August 04, 2009, 07:35 pm PT (10:35 pm ET)

Report: iPhone grabs 32% of global handset profits

Apple's iPhone now accounts for 8% of all mobile phone revenue and a whopping 32% of the industry's handset profits, according to figures published by Bernstein Research analyst Toni Sacconaghi.

The numbers, published by All Things Digital blogger John Paczkowski, aren't limited just to the smartphone segment market, but look at all mobile phones sold in the first half of 2009, a $65.7 billion industry.

Apple earned just over $5 billion in the first half of the year, making it the fifth biggest player in terms of revenue, behind Nokia, Samsung, RIM, and LG. Apple lead the world in actually making money however, with just over $2 billion in operating profits. The company earned just over $100 million more than second place Nokia, gobbling up a 32% share of the global profits made in handset sales and achieving operating margins of 40%.

Because these numbers reflect the first two quarters of 2009, they only take into consideration less than two weeks of the surge in sales generated by the new iPhone 3GS. Historically, the first half of the year has been the slowest for Apple's mobile sales as buyers begin to anticipate the next refresh.

In terms of operating margins, second place RIM earned closer to 20%, while Nokia, Samsung, and LG made closer to 10% margins. Sony Ericsson and Motorola continued to actually lose money in their handset sales, with the former losing $841 million and the latter loosing $762 million.

Ignoring the losses of Sony Ericsson and Motorola, but still considering their $8 billion in sales, Apple's 8% share of the industry's revenue still accounts for 25% of the world's profits earned from phone sales.

The numbers vindicate Apple's strategy of exclusively selling smartphones, rather than trying to soak up unit market share by marketing huge volumes of many models of low profit 'feature phones.' Nokia, the leader in phone sales worldwide, has watched its market share evaporate under competition from Apple and RIM by doing just the opposite.

Apple's smartphone business is structured similar to the company's approach to selling computers, where it owns a disproportionally large segment of the premium market. As with feature phones, Apple has largely ignored low profit PC segments such as high volume but low priced $400 desktops.