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iPhone leads competition in UK holiday smartphone sales

The iPhone 4S accounted for nearly one out of every four smartphone sales in the UK during the lead up to the holiday season, retains top spot while handset makers compete for a piece of the region's exploding smartphone market.

Citing findings by research firm GfK, the Financial Times reported on Monday that Apple dominated the U.K. smartphone market for the four weeks ending on Dec. 9, lead by the best-selling iPhone 4S which accounted for nearly one quarter of all sales.

During the first week of December, five versions of Apple's handset, including the two and a half year old 3GS, ranked as one of the top 15 smartphones sold and took over 37 percent of a smartphone market that nearly doubled in size between Feb. 2010 and Aug. 2011. According to figures from Ofcom, the U.K.'s government-approved regulatory authority for telecommunications, 46 percent of all mobile users are now smartphone owners.

Sales from competitors also saw a boost thanks to the overall market growth, with Samsung's Galaxy S II taking the number two spot and three versions of RIM's BlackBerry Curve all landing in the top ten. U.K. BlackBerry sales were largely unaffected by the recent spate of service troubles RIM suffered in the EMEIA region (Europe, Middle East, India and Africa) in October and November.

Noticeably absent from the top-selling handsets was Nokia, which failed to translate a reported 20 million pound advertising campaign into Christmas sales. The company's new partnership with Microsoft has yet to bear fruit, and the Windows Phone 7-based Lumia line failed to crack the top ten handsets sold in the UK after being released in November.

Nokia, however, admitted that sales would be slow due to the lack of a previous generation phone and established user base like Apple's. The new Lumia sold barely more units than other Nokia "Touch and Type" phones during the one-month period.

Apple's strong holiday numbers are in line with a recent report that said the iPhone took the top spot away from Android in the U.K. for the first time since late 2010, and holds a 43 percent share of the market as of November.