While inexpensive netbooks helped keep the PC industry afloat through the recession, feature-rich smartphones, by contrast, are "leading the handset industry out of the recession," wrote Strategy Analytics analyst Tom Kang, in a Feb. 1 report.
Global smartphone shipments reached a record 53 million units in the fourth quarter of 2009-representing a growth of 30 percent from the 41 million units of a year ago.
"Sales are being driven by stronger consumer demand and a stream of attractive new 3G models tempting buyers into retail stores," wrote Kang.
Nokia shipped a record 20.8 million smartphones worldwide during the quarter, which was up 28 percent from its 15.1 million total a year earlier. Closing the quarter with 39.2 percent market share, it was Nokia's strongest quarter since the first half of 2008.
The E71 and E72, Strategy Analytics notes, were particularly popular models for the phone maker, which in 2009 additionally expanded into PC market.
Research In Motion once again placed second. The BlackBerry maker shipped a record 10.7 million smartphones worldwide during the quarter-which the firm notes put it "comfortably ahead of Apple's 8.7 million units during the quarter."
RIM shipped a total of 34.5 million BlackBerry smartphones in 2009, finishing the quarter with 20.2 percent market share and the year with 19.8 percent.
Apple shipped a total of 25.1 million iPhones in 2009, finishing the fourth quarter with 16.4 percent market share and the year with 14.4 percent of the market.
"The smartphone market will become ultra competitive in 2010," Neil Mawston, director of Strategy Analytics, said in a statement on the report.
"Samsung and LG have ambitious plans to grow volumes and expand their app stores, while emerging players like Dell and Huawei are strengthening their device portfolios and courting major operators," Mawston continued. "The smartphone wars will be good news for consumers, but the fierce competition will inevitably place downward pressure on vendors' pricing and margins."