Apple’s iPhone now accounts for 17 percent of global smartphone sales, propelled by a nearly 50 percent growth rate for the third quarter, new research released Thursday indicates. Cupertino’s rising star in worldwide smartphone demand is expected to only increase as the iPhone becomes available in China and more carriers begin offering the popular cell phone.
During the September quarter, Apple shipped an estimated 7.04 million iPhones – a 49.2 percent jump over last year, making the company the third-largest smartphone maker behind Nokia and Research in Motion. Apple had 12.9 percent of the market during the same period in 2008, according to Gartner.
The Finnish-based Nokia held onto its No. 1 position with 16.1 million smartphones shipped in the quarter, but saw its lead slip to 39.3 percent of the market, down from 42.3 percent during the same timeframe in 2008. RIM sold 8.5 million handsets, a 46.9 percent jump during the third quarter. The Canadian company increased its hold on second place, posting 20.8 percent of the smartphone market – up from 15.9 percent for the third quarter of 2008.
Google’s Android, expected to sharply challenge the iPhone, may encounter trouble capturing more marketshare beyond its current 3.5 percent, according to the researcher. While Verizon’s Droid and T-Mobile are gaining greater publicity, “hardware commoditization and growth in open platforms will make it harder for them to stand out,” said Carolina Milanesi, research director at Gartner.
Despite increasing pressure to lower smartphone prices, Apple is expected to withstand the downward movement, according to the report.
Gartner’s report comes on the heels of other research showing Apple has passed both Nokia and Samsung as the most-profitable cell phone maker. Apple earned $1.6 billion in profits, compared to Nokia’s $1.1 billion during the third quarter, according to Strategy Analytics.