Sales of the Apple iPhone have grown 98 percent, outsripping smartphone growth from long-time leaders Nokia and Research in Motion (RiM).

Comparing smartphone sales in the fourth quarter of 2009 to the same period a year earlier research company IDC reported that Apple increased its share of the market to 16 percent - closing the gap on BlackBerry-maker RiM (19.6 percent).

Looking at smartphone sales throughout the whole of 2009, compared to 2008, IDC reports that Apple's market share rose from 9.1 percent to 14.4 percent - shipping 25.1 million iPhones, and putting it in third place.

Smartphone sales 2009

Nokia shipped the most smartphones - 67.7 million - and held 38.9 percent of the market at year's end. RIM's 34.5 million smartphone shipments in 2009 gave it a 19.6 percent share of the market last year.

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HTC and Samsung, respectively, finished fourth and fifth in the smartphone market share derby. Each shipped less than 8 million smartphones during the year and finished the year with a market share of less than 10 percent.

Motorola was a top five smartphone vendor in the 2009 fourth quarter, its first appearance after a year-long absence. Motorola had the fourth highest market share in the period, behind Nokia, RIM and Apple.

Smartphone sales Q4 2009

Vendors shipped a record 54.5 million smartphones in the fourth quarter, 39 percent more than the 39.2 million shipped in the same quarter in 2008, IDC reported.

Four of the top five smartphone vendors bested their own shipment records for a single quarter, IDC said.

Ramon Llamas, an analyst at IDC, said vendor moves to cut prices helped to "create a perfect set of conditions to push shipments to a record level."

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The emergence of Google's Android and the Palm WebOS operating systems had a big impact on 2009 smartphone sales by offering users increased functionality, IDC added.

For all of 2009, vendors shipped 174 million smartphones, up 15 percent from the 151 million in 2008. All told, smartphones accounted for 15 percent of all mobile phones shipped in 2009, up from 12.7 percent in 2008, IDC said.

The analyst firm had issued fourth quartersales figures for all mobile phone shipments last week.

IDC expects that increased demand for smartphones will lead to new shipment records in 2010, especially with Symbian and Windows Mobile operating systems upgrades expected.

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