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Apple is third in global smartphone rankings

Statistics from Gartner suggest that the iPhone, which has been available for just one year, has already taken Apple to third place in the smartphone stakes
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

Apple has reached third place in the global smartphone market, according to analyst house Gartner.

Although the iPhone has only been available for a year, it has already achieved a 5.3 percent share of smartphone sales around the world, selling 1.72 million units in the first quarter of this year alone. According to findings released by Gartner on Friday, global smartphone rankings have Nokia first with a share greater than 45 percent, and Blackberry-makers RIM second with a share of 13.4 percent.

In North America, where Nokia has consistently failed to make as great an impression as elsewhere, RIM commands first place with a 42 percent share of the smartphone market, followed by Apple with a 20 percent market share. Gartner classifies a smartphone as a device that is "built on an open operating system".

RIM achieved great year-on-year growth, with a 107.3 percent increase in sales between the first quarter of 2007 (two million worldwide) and the first quarter of 2008 (4.3 million worldwide). Nokia also managed an impressive year-on-year growth in sales of 25.3 percent, according to Gartner.

"Smartphone growth was driven by replacement markets such as Europe, and smartphone sales also benefited from continued growth in the US market, which increased its regional share to almost equal sales in Western Europe," said Carolina Milanesi, research director for mobile devices at Gartner.

Milanesi pointed out that touchscreens, usability and application integration had all been hot topics at the start of 2008, and predicted these trends would "mature further and become the focus for more handset vendors and carriers as they expand their current portfolios to include more open-platform devices".

Speaking to ZDNet.co.uk on Friday, Milanesi said many would not be impressed with Apple's share of the total handset market, describing that share as "a drop in the ocean". However, she added that the iPhone had managed to raise awareness of feature-rich handsets, particularly in the US, where people are more used to basic functionality in their phones and companies such as Nokia and Sony Ericsson have struggled to convince consumers to go for smartphones.

Although the second-generation, 3G-enabled iPhone is about to launch, Milanesi said Apple might have to adjust its strategy now that the "wow factor" has passed. Citing poor economic sentiment in the US and western Europe, along with a "softening" of the top end of the handset market, she said Apple might have to start allowing the iPhone to be subsidised by operators. "Competing in a challenging and competitive market without having a subsidy on the device is going to be very tough," she said.

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