Apple gains share in smart-phone market in first quarter

May 11, 2010 By Dan Gallagher

The growing power of Apple Inc. in the mobile-device market was underscored in two ways Friday: in a report from IDC showing the iPhone gaining market share, and in a fresh lawsuit from cell-phone giant Nokia Corp.

A study issued by research firm IDC showed Apple with a share of 16.1 percent of the global smart-phone market by the end of the first quarter. That's up from 10.9 percent for the like period last year, when the company had only half the share as its closest rival, Ltd.

That gap is closing. IDC estimates that RIM closed the period with 19.4 percent share -- down slightly from 20.9 percent last year.

Apple's iPhone competes with RIM's BlackBerry family of smart phones, as well as other devices from the likes of Motorola Inc., ., Corp. and Nokia.

Nokia is still the global leader in , with 39.3 percent market share, according to IDC. But that remains unchanged from the like period last year. The company doesn't rank in the top five smart-phone vendors in the key U.S. market.

RIM still enjoys a distinct advantage in the United States, where it has a 41.7 percent market share compared with Apple's 17.2 percent, according to IDC data.

Motorola has seen its fortunes improve in the marketplace. Globally, the company saw smart-phone shipments grow nearly 92 percent in the last year, to a of 4.2 percent compared with 3.4 percent last year, IDC said. The Schaumburg, Ill.-based company has launched a handful of devices using the Android mobile-operating system developed by Inc.

Overall, smart-phone shipments grew nearly 57 percent in the first quarter. The mobile-phone market -- which includes regular cell phones -- grew by nearly 22 percent in the same period.

Also on Friday, Nokia announced that it has sued Apple in a federal court in Wisconsin, alleging that the company's latest gadget infringes on its patents.

Apple launched the iPad touch-screen tablet last month. A WiFi-only version went on sale on April 3, and a version compatible with 3G wireless networks from AT&T Inc. launched later in the month.

Nokia claims the iPad 3G infringes on five of its patents. The Finnish company has filed a similar lawsuit over the , though the latter device also was included in Friday's action.

The patents in question "relate to technologies for enhanced speech and data transmission, using positioning data in applications and innovations in antenna configurations that improve performance and save space, allowing smaller and more compact devices," according to Nokia.

Apple sued Nokia in December, claiming infringement of its own patents. That suit came after Nokia filed its first complaint against .

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