BlackBerry maker Research In Motion is now among the world's five largest cell phone vendors, knocking Motorola from the list and highlighting the growing popularity of smartphones in the market, according to research firm IDC.
In a report issued April 29, IDC said that RIM tied Sony Ericsson for fourth place, in a cell phone market that saw 21.7 percent growth in the first quarter. The addition of RIM to the top-five list represents the first change to the list in the past five years.
"The entrance of RIM into the top five underscores the sustained smartphone growth trend that is driving the global mobile phone market recovery," said IDC Senior Research Analyst Kevin Restivo, in the report. "This is also the first time a vendor has dropped out of the top five since the second quarter of 2005, when Sony Ericsson grabbed the number five spot from BenQ Siemens."
Boosted by a strong demand for converged devices, vendors shipped 294.9 million handsets during the first quarter - up from 242.4 million units a year ago.
Leading the worldwide market once again was Nokia, which shipped 107.8 million units during the quarter, for a 36.6 percent share of the market. Samsung, achieving 40.1 percent year-over-year growth, followed in second position, shipping 64.3 million units for 21.8 percent market share, and LG finished third, with 9.2 percent market share from shipments of 27.1 million units.
Fourth-place RIM and Sony Ericsson each shipped 10.6 million units for 3.6 percent market share apiece. For RIM, the figure was up from 7.3 million units in the first quarter of 2010, while for Sony Ericsson, it represented a drop from 14.5 million units.
"Research In Motion is the only vendor in the top five with a singular focus on smartphones, and as a result, the company enjoys the highest average selling prices within that group," IDC reported.
As for Sony Ericsson, while its first-quarter shipments fell 28 percent, the quarter nonetheless represented a return to profitability, following cost cuts and the introduction of new devices, such as the Aspen, Elm and Hazel to its Greenheart line, as well as the Xperia X10 and the Vivaz converged devices, which helped to boost average selling prices by 12 percent.
For market leader Nokia, shipments were up 16 percent from a year ago - thanks in part to the successes of its 5130 and 2700 models - though it saw overall average selling prices fall. With its recent introduction of the N8, however, the first device to run the Symbian 3 OS, Nokia hopes to raise its overall ASP, following the device's third-quarter launch.
Samsung retained its No. 2 spot for the twelfth consecutive quarter, with total shipment volumes, wrote IDC, that were greater "than those of the next three vendors combined." Driving its results were a combination of new device launches, expanded distribution channels and an effort to deliver more high-end devices, pushing up its ASP.
While the quarter's overall results were very strong, IDC explained that they should be viewed relative to the depressed state of the year before.
"It should be noted that the market's first-quarter growth, while impressive, is relative to one of the worst quarters in mobile phone industry history," wrote Restivo. "The market's growth should not be taken as a proxy for future quarters nor annual growth."
For the remainder of 2010, IDC if forecasting a growth rate of 11 percent.