The worldwide smartphone market grew 79.7 percent year-over-year in the first quarter of 2011, with Apple closing in on Nokia and Samsung growing in leaps and bounds, according to the International Data Corporation (IDC).
IDC attributes strong smartphone growth to a combination of vendors releasing highly anticipated models, widespread availability of older smartphones at lower prices and sustained end-user demand.
According to IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker report, smartphone vendors shipped a total of 99.6 million units in the first quarter, nearly double the 55.4 million units shipped in the first quarter of 2010.
Samsung posted the largest year-over-year gain of any other vendor on the list. Samsung's multiple operating system strategy has been a catalyst to the company's nearly 350 percent year-over-year growth. Samsung shipped 10.8 million units, capturing a 10.8 percent share of the market. And while multiple operating systems helped the company grow its share of the market, IDC said Android-powered phones remained its bread and butter.
Kevin Restivo, senior research analyst with IDC, said it's Android that has really driven overall smartphone adoption. "The rise of Android as a prominent mobile operating system has allowed several suppliers to gain share quickly," Restivo said, adding that "the relatively nascent state of smartphone adoption globally means there is ample room for several suppliers to comfortably co-exist, at least for the short term."
Both Apple and HTC saw record shipment volumes for a single quarter. Apple inched closer to market leader Nokia with fewer than 6 million units separating the two companies, and HTC surpassed the 10 million unit mark for the first time.
Nokia and Research In Motion (RIM) held steady in the face of looming challenges. Despite announcing its intentions to move from Symbian to Windows Phone as its primary smartphone OS, Nokia maintained its leadership position in the smartphone market, shipping 24.2 million units, with a 24.3 percent market share.
RIM remained solidly in third place from the previous quarter, shipping 13.9 million units and maintaining a 14 percent market share.
Ramon Llamas, senior research analyst with IDC, said that conditions are ripe for sustained growth of the smartphone market.
"First, vendors are increasingly emphasizing smartphones as the key to their own growth," he said. "Second, selection has proliferated from mostly high-end devices to include more mid-range and entry-level offerings. Third, pricing has become increasingly competitive, with even high-end devices available at low price points. Finally, users continue to seek greater utility from their mobile phone beyond voice, and smartphones have been the ideal solution. Altogether, these add up to continued smartphone growth throughout the year."