Samsung, HTC and Apple posted double- and triple-figure growth during a third quarter that "reached a new milestone," IDC reported Nov. 4.
"Smartphone makers have the wind behind their sails," IDC analyst Kevin Restivo said in the new report, which showed shipments to have totaled 81.1 million during the quarter - a jump of 89.5 percent from the 42.8 million units shipped during the third quarter of 2009.
The combined first three quarters of 2010 now total 200.6 million units, for a growth of 67.6 percent over the 119.6 million phones that had shipped by the same time last year.
"That the smartphone market has grown nearly ninety percent from last year and more than six times the overall mobile phone market indicates strong demand worldwide and vendors' collective ability to meet that demand," Ramon Llamas, an IDC senior research analyst, said in a statement. "Increasingly, users look to smartphones as their next devices while carriers have broadened selection and offered generous subsidies. To keep up with demand, vendors' plans to emphasize smartphones in their portfolios have resulted in sharp growth as evidenced by Motorola, Samsung, and Sony Ericsson. We expect more vendors to do the same."
Nokia, which has been criticized for its failings to compete in the high-end smartphone market, led the global market with shipments of 26.5 million units and had strong year-on-year growth of 61.6 percent, following the launch of two new smartphones, the C7 and the N8 - its first to run the Symbian 3 operating system. Still, its market share dipped a bit, to 32.7 percent, from 38.3 percent a year earlier, and its average selling prices "trended down," IDC said.
Apple, posting a year-on-year growth of 90.5 percent, leaped over Research In Motion into the number-two spot. Thanks to the launch of the iPhone, Apple's third quarter was once again its strongest, and it shipped14.1 million iPhones, up from 7.4 million during 2009's third quarter.
While dropped to third, RIM nonetheless posted a record-setting quarter, during which it debuted the Torch 9800, its first BlackBerry with both a touchscreen and dedicated QWERTY keypad, and shipped 12.4 million units. Its year-on-year growth was 45.9 percent, boosting its market share to 19.9 percent, from 15.3 percent a year earlier.
But it was fourth-place-finisher Samsung that gets the gold star for growth. Year over year, Samsung smartphone shipments skyrocketed by 453.8 percent, on shipments of 7.2 million units - up from just 1.3 million the year before, according to IDC.
"This result was based on the worldwide launch of its Galaxy S Android-powered smartphones and the continued popularity of its Wave smartphones," stated the IDC report. "Although these devices directly address the high end of the smartphone market, Samsung is poised to ship mass market smartphones. Moreover, the company will be one of the first vendors to ship a Windows Phone 7 device. By the end of the year, Samsung aims to ship 10 million units for the quarter."
In fifth, relative newcomer HTC posted the second-highest year-on-year growth figure of 176.2 percent, following shipments of 5.8 million units, up from 2.1 the same time last year. This triple-digit growth, said IDC, was based on the strength of is Android-powered lineup. Still, IDC added, "Now that HTC has five Windows Phone 7 devices for launch during [the fourth quarter], the company aims to ship 9 million units for the quarter."
The launch of new operating systems, said IDC's Llamas, is a way the vendors are "seeding the market" for continued growth.
"BlackBerry, iPhone, Microsoft and Symbian all announced or launched refreshed operating systems, with each one providing an improved user experience over its predecessor," said Llamas. "While these new operating systems initially appear on high-end devices at launch, they provide a glimpse of what the broader smartphone market will look like next year as the OS finds its way into more devices in the market."