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IDC: Apple passes RIM to become No. 4 global mobile phone vendor

A new IDC report shows strong iPhone sales have pushed Apple past Research in Motion, making the iPhone-maker the world's fourth-largest mobile phone seller in the third quarter of 2010.

According to IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, Apple's record quarter was enough to land it a fourth-place spot on the list of global mobile phone vendors, behind Nokia, Samsung and LG Electronics. Though Apple has consistently been a top smartphone vendor, this marks the first quarter that Apple has cracked the top 5 list of global mobile phone vendors.

With Apple and RIM taking fourth and fifth place respectively, Sony Ericsson was ousted from the top 5 for the first time since the inception of the IDC Mobile Phone Tracker report in 2004. According to the report, the iPhone 4 launched in 17 new countries last quarter.

"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," said Kevin Restivo, IDC senior research analyst.

In terms of growth, Apple dominated its competitors with a 90.5 percent year-over-year increase in sales. Third-place LG missed its smartphone shipment growth targets and fell behind, with shipments dropping 10 percent from 31.6 million in Q3 2009 to 28.4 million in Q3 2010. Although the Seoul, Korea-based company still maintains a wide margin over Apple, the iPhone-maker is steadily gaining on it.

RIM posted the second biggest year-over-year growth, with a record quarter that saw a 45.9 percent increase in shipments from Q3 2009. However, the record numbers weren't enough to hold back Apple.

The IDC data confirms Apple CEO Steve Jobs' assertion that his company had overtaken Blackberry-maker RIM.

"We've now passed RIM," Jobs said during Apple's quarterly conference call. "I don't see them catching up with us in the foreseeable future. It will be a challenge for them to create a mobile software platform and convince developers to support a third platform."

Jim Balsillie, co-CEO of RIM, fired back that Jobs had compared Apple's September-ending quarter to RIM's August-ending quarter without taking into account that "industry demand in September is typically stronger than summer months." However, according to IDC, RIM shipped 12.4 million phones in the September-ending third-quarter, compared to the 12.1 million figure from RIM's August-ending quarter. By comparison, Apple shipped a record 14.1 million iPhones in the third quarter.

Top Five Mobile Phone Vendors, Shipments, and Market Share, Q3 2010 (Units in Millions)

Source: IDC