Apple becomes world's leading smartphone vendor ahead of new iPhone debut

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Apple now sells more smartphones than any other hardware maker in the world, and the company's sales are only expected to increase with today's introduction of the next iPhone.

This week, IHS iSuppli revealed its latest figures, showing Apple's 20.3 million smartphones shipped in the second quarter of calendar 2011 was the most of any company. Apple's totals beat out No. 2 Samsung, with 19.6 million, and third-place Nokia, with 16.7 million.

"With the refresh of the iPhone line... along with continued expansion of Apple’s sales channels, we expect the company to continue to maintain its momentum in the smartphone market in the third quarter and beyond," said Francis Sideco, senior principal analyst of wireless communications for IHS. Apple will introduce its new iPhone at an event today.

"However, Samsung has been coming on strong during the last few quarters, driven by its participation in both the high- and low-end smartphone segments," Sideco added. "One of the key indicators of how the smartphone competitive landscape will evolve during the next six to 12 months will be whether or not Apple will continue to stay exclusively in the high-end market, or if it will introduce a low-end model."

Apple already revealed in its own quarterly earnings report in July that iPhone sales exceeded 20 million for the three-month frame. The numbers from IHS put those figures in perspective, as Apple's sales were driven by the year-old iPhone 4, which has remained the top-selling smartphone in the U.S. well into its lifespan.

IHS sees the iPhone continuing to play a "key role" in rapid expansion of the smartphone market. The research firm expects a total of 478 million smartphones to be shipped in calendar 2011, up 62.4 percent from the 294 million in 2010.

Apple's sales are exceeding the market average, with the iPhone seeing 142.2 percent annual unit shipment growth in the second quarter of 2011. Rival Samsung even exceeded that, posting 600 percent year over year growth in shipments.

Looking into the future, IHS sees more than a billion smartphones being sold in the year 2015, more than doubling their anticipated totals in 2011. In 2015, smartphone shipments are expected to account for more than half of all cellphones.


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