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Apple's iPhone captures 17% of worldwide smartphone market

In less than two and a half years on the market, Apple's iPhone has managed nearly a fifth of the total global smartphone market, thanks to nearly 50 percent year-over-year growth in sales in the third quarter of 2009.

New data released by research firm Gartner Thursday showed that the iPhone has taken a 17.1 percent share of the worldwide smartphone market in the three-month period ending in September. The report said Apple's share is only expected to grow, with even stronger anticipated sales in the fourth quarter, thanks to expansion into China and the addition of new carriers in multiple countries.

The study found Apple to be the third-largest smartphone company, behind only Nokia and Research in Motion. Apple shipped an estimated 7.04 million iPhones in the September quarter, up from just 4.72 million phones and a 12.9 percent share in the same frame a year ago. That represented a 49.2 percent year-over-year increase in sales.

Market leader Nokia took a 39.3 percent slice of the market, shipping 16.16 million smartphones. That was up from 15.47 million in the third quarter of 2008, but represented a smaller percentage of the overall market. Last year, Nokia took 42.3 percent of sales. Gartner said the company's 2009 share represents its lowest ever.

RIM shipped an estimated 8.52 million handsets during the quarter, earning it 20.8 percent of sales. It, too, grew its share, up from 15.9 percent in the same period in 2008, when it shipped 5.8 million smartphones, an increase of 46.9 percent.

Worldwide Smartphone Sales to End Users in 3Q09 (Thousands of Units). Source: Gartner.

Coming in fourth with 6.5 percent of sales was HTC, which saw its year-over-year sales grow 60.6 percent. It was followed by Samsung with 3.2 percent. All other hardware makers accounted for the remaining 13.1 percent. In all, 41.06 million smartphones shipped in the third quarter of 2009.

Gartner also tracked the mobile operating system market, where Android reportedly picked up momentum. However, its total global share sits at 3.5 percent.

"The third quarter of 2009 saw the announcement of many new mobile devices, including several Android smartphones ready for the holiday season in the fourth quarter, but hardware commoditization and the growth in open platforms will make it harder for them to stand out," said Carolina Milanesi, research director at Gartner. "Meanwhile, the channel slowed its inventory-reduction efforts so while some sales volumes increased, average selling prices (ASPs) stagnated. We expect pressure on ASP to continue into 2010."

The report said that the average selling price of the iPhone, however, is expected to hold firm. Last quarter, Apple stated that the ASP of the iPhone was "just over $600," showing that sales tend to skew toward the higher-priced iPhone 3GS.

"Many devices will reach the market in time for Christmas, and mobile carriers will run incentives for consumers during the holidays," Milanesi said. "We expect sales of mobile devices in the fourth quarter of 2009 to show year-over-year growth. As many vendors and industry watchers call for a decrease in sales into the channel, our sell through data is showing that 2009 performance will be flat rather than down over 2008."