iPhone 4S helps Apple claim top smartphone spot

The iPhone 4S was the hottest-selling smartphone during the holidays, closely followed by Samsung’s devices, according to research

Apple was the undisputed leader of the smartphone market in the last quarter, as rival Nokia lost almost a third of its sales, according to the latest research from the International Data Corporation. The iPhone 4S was the hottest-selling smartphone during the holidays, closely followed by Samsung’s devices, as the market grew by almost 55 percent from last year.

Apple is now the world’s third-largest phone maker by shipments and market share, behind Nokia and Samsung -- but when it comes to smartphone sales, Apple is second only to Samsung on a yearly basis. In the last quarter Apple sold the most smartphones, 37 million, with Samsung hot on its heels at 36 million. On a yearly basis though, Samsung shipped some 800,000 smartphones more than Apple.

IDC says several factors played a role in the 37 million iPhones sold last quarter: the combination of holiday seasonality, the iPhone’s delayed launch from the third quarter to the fourth, and the addition of multiple mobile operators.

“The launch of Apple's iPhone 4S played a key role in smartphone growth to capture pent-up demand, and smartphone launches from other vendors also provided a broad selection to meet varying preferences and budgets," explained Ramon Llamas, senior research analyst with IDC.

While Apple and Samsung are battling over the top spot, Nokia posted the largest year-over-year decrease in smartphone sales, IDC reported. Nokia, still the world’s largest phone manufacturer, shipped some one million Windows Phone 7 smartphones in the last quarter, as demand for its Symbian-powered smartphones appears to have waned. Research In Motion has dropped 11 percent in sales during the same period as well.

Meanwhile, HTC recorded a 17 percent increase in sales in the fourth quarter, compared to the same period last year, mainly because of several product launches such as the Windows Phone-powered Titan and Radar models, the Beats-influenced Rezound, and the LTE-enabled Vivid.

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