Apple's iPhone believed to account for record 8% of global mobile phone market

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Even as Apple appears to have retaken the top spot among smartphone makers during the fourth quarter of 2011, a new analysis claims the iPhone made up 8.3 percent of the worldwide mobile phone market during the same period.

The latest research from Strategy Analytics pegged Apple as the "star performer" among mobile phone makers last quarter. The company's sales of 37 million iPhone accounted for a highest-ever 8 percent market share, according to the firm. For all of 2011, Apple's 93 million iPhone units gave it a 6 percent share of the worldwide handset market.

"Apple’s growth was fueled by intense demand for its refreshed iPhone 4S, as well as the availability of three generations of iPhones at a variety of price points at operators like AT&T in the United States," said Associate Director Alex Spektor.

Tom Kang, who serves as a director at the firm, pointed out that in just five years, iPhone sales have grown to an expected 100 million units in 2012.

"China is becoming a key market for Apple this year, and we expect Apple’s share to grow rapidly in 2012, despite countless copycat rivals,” he said.

Handset shipments for the quarter reportedly totaled 445 million, growing 11.2 percent year over year. Nokia was given the top spot with estimated shipments of 113.5 million units, while the firm's estimate of 95 million phone shipments would put Samsung squarely in second place.

Handset market share Q4 2011
Numbers are rounded. | Source: Strategy Analytics

“Nokia’s global handset shipments declined 8 percent annually to 113.5 million units in Q4 2011. Volumes were buoyed by the sales of Nokia’s low-end dual-SIM models in emerging markets like Southeast Asia, but were a little soft overall, as initial shipments of Microsoft Lumia phones could not offset declining Symbian sales," Strategy Analytics Executive Director Neil Mawston noted.

Mawston also remarked that Samsung's 18 percent annual growth was driven by its "Galaxy-branded 3G portfolio," especially the Galaxy S2 "superphone."

The research group proclaimed Apple on Thursday the world's largest smartphone vendor during the fourth quarter. According to the report, Samsung came in just behind Apple with an estimated 36.5 million smartphone units shipped.

In the third quarter of 2011, the firm named Apple the fifth-largest handset vendor in terms of volume with 4.1 percent market share, behind Nokia, Samsung, LG and ZTE.