Apple, RIM, HTC Ride High in Q1, but Smartphone Market Dips: iSuppli

Apple dominated a first-quarter smartphone market that, while growing year over year, fell quarter to quarter for the first time since 2009.

Apple dominated a first-quarter smartphone market that-while posting nearly 80 percent year-over-year growth-uncharacteristically dipped quarter to quarter, according to new data from IHS iSuppli.

For the first time since the start of 2009, the market didn't continue its aggressive rise. While in most tech sectors, holiday-timed fourth quarters are usually more robust than the first quarters that follow, the smartphone market had bucked this trend-until now. Individually, however, Apple, Research In Motion and HTC still managed to do so.

Apple was the particular standout, posting a double-digit percentage growth-14.9 percent-with shipments rising to 18.6 million units, up from 16.2 million during the fourth quarter. Among the top five vendors, Apple posted the strongest growth performance-though the best overall quarterly growth went to No. 7 LG Electronics, which posted a whopping 60 percent sequential growth.

"Apple's smartphone market share in the first quarter was boosted by the introduction of its first iPhone model with code division multiple access (CDMA) as well as by the addition of Verizon Wireless as a carrier in the United States," IHS Senior Analyst Tina Teng said in a May 9 statement. "Not only did this allow Apple to expand its target market and boost shipments, it also placed additional pressure on rival smartphone brands-including Motorola, Samsung, LG and HTC-that focus on Verizon Wireless as a major customer."Motorola was crushed the hardest by Verizon's addition of the iPhone, stated the report, with shipments during the quarter declining 16.3 percent.Market leader Nokia, while posting a positive 12.6 percent year-over-year change, fell 14.5 percent during the quarter, with shipments dropping to 24.2 million units from 28.3 million the quarter before-a trend IHS blamed on Nokia's Feb. 11 announcement that it is shifting its OS focus from Symbian to Microsoft."Nokia eliminated the incentive for consumers to buy its existing smartphone products, which are based on its Symbian and MeeGo operating systems," stated the report. "Meanwhile, the Microsoft deal is unlikely to yield any products for nearly one year."Third place during the quarter went to BlackBerry maker RIM, which shipped 14.8 million units-up a hair from its 14.2 million units the quarter before-managing to outperform the overall market, thanks in part to its continued expansion to regions outside of North America, as well as its continued appeal to business customers, stated the report."[RIM] also capitalized on the trend toward cell-phone-based monetary transactions," IHS added, "with the announcement of several smartphone models that integrate near-field communications (NFC) technology."Samsung finished in fourth place, with a negative 1.6 percent sequential growth rate; fifth place went to HTC, which managed 6.2 percent sequential growth, and behind it came Motorola, LG, Sony Ericsson, Sharp and NEC, respectively.IHS largely blamed the dip in quarterly smartphone sales on "inventory control efforts in the smartphone market, rather than weakening consumer demand."IHS' Teng said the trend shouldn't be a long-term one, adding that "this decline does not change the IHS iSuppli forecast of 60 percent growth in worldwide smartphone shipments for the entire year of 2011."