It's Official: Apple Is King

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All hail the new king. According to researcher IDC, Apple (NAS: AAPL) led the world in fourth-quarter smartphone sales. Here's a closer look at the data:

Vendor

Q4 2011 Shipment Volumes (mil.)

Q4 2011 Market Share

Q4 2010 Shipment Volumes (mil.)

Year-Over-Year Change

Apple37.023.5%16.215.9%128.4%
Samsung36.022.8%9.69.4%275.0%
Nokia19.612.4%28.127.6%(30.6%)
Research In Motion13.08.2%14.614.3%(11.0%)
HTC10.26.5%8.78.5%17.2%
Others42.026.6%24.824.3%69.4%
Total157.8100%102.0100%54.7%

Source: IDC.

Three things strike me looking at this table:

  1. The iPhone wasn't the fastest grower. Samsung and its range of Android-powered phones led, growing more than twice as fast as the iPhone. That's nitpicking, I realize, since both companies enjoyed triple-digit unit sales growth. Every other named vendor badly trailed the industry's 54.7% average growth rate.
  2. "Other" includes some big names. Notice who didn't make the list. Motorola Mobility (NYS: MMI) was a non-factor, as was LG. Don't expect Google (NAS: GOOG) to be happy about that. While the deal for Moto's mobile group has yet to close, executives had to be hoping the acquisition would provide hardware heft in a worldwide fight against Apple for market share. Instead, it's HTC and Samsung leading the robot revolution -- and they're both working with Microsoft (NAS: MSFT) to deliver Windows Phone handsets.
  3. Nokia needs help now. The former Finnish phenom beat modest expectations last quarter, but as these numbers demonstrate, time is running out. Growth won't return unless the Lumina Windows smartphone turns out to be an unqualified hit.

Android still leads in operating system share globally thanks to the number of smartphone partners the Big G is working with, but the gap is closing due to outrageous iPhone sales. Apple is coming for you, Google. Watch your back.

Do you agree? Disagree? Either way, it makes sense to study the post-PC world emerging around us. We can help. The Motley Fool recently created a special report that identifies three "hidden" stocks positioned to profit from the rise of smartphones and tablets. It's yours free, but only for a limited time, so take a look today.

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At the time this article was published Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of theMotley Fool Rule Breakersstock-picking team. He owned shares of Apple and Google at the time of publication. Check out Tim's web home, portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Google+ or Twitter, where he goes by @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader.The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft, Google, and Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Microsoft, Apple, and Google. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a bull call spread position in Microsoft. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a bull call spread position in Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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