iPhone 4S pushes Apple into No. 3 spot for global phone sales

Triple-digit sales growth in the fourth quarter propels the company up two spots in market share.

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Steven Musil
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Apple's iPhone 4S. Apple

Triple-digit iPhone sales growth catapulted Apple up two spots to become the world's third largest mobile phone manufacturer.

iPhone sales increased 128 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011 over the same period in 2010, according to data released today by research firm IDC. The firm identified the iPhone 4S, which was introduced on October, as the primary reason the company leapt over LG and ZTE in the fourth quarter.

"The mobile phone market exhibited unusually low growth last quarter, which shows it is not immune to weaker macroeconomic conditions worldwide," Kevin Restivo, senior research analyst with IDC's Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker, said in a statement. "The introduction of high-growth products such as the iPhone 4S, which shipped in the fourth quarter, bolstered smartphone growth. Yet overall market growth fell to its lowest point since 3Q09 when the global economic recession was in full bloom."

Apple sold 37 million phones in the fourth quarter giving it an 8.7 percent market share of the global phone market, more than doubling the 4 percent market share it held in the fourth quarter of 2010. For the entire year, Apple sold 93 million phones for a 6 percent market share, a 96 percent increase over 2010.

The market continued to be dominated by Nokia and Samsung, which sold 113 million and 97 million phones in the fourth quarter, respectively. While Samsung's 20 percent market share reflected nearly a 21 percent increase, Nokia's market share shrank by 8.2 percent to 30.7 percent.

Overall, total worldwide sales in the fourth quarter totaled 427.4 million phones compared with 402.8 million for the same period in 2010, an increase of 6.1 percent, higher than the 4.4 percent growth IDC had predicted. Phone makers sold 1.54 billion phones for the entire year, an 11.1 percent increase over 2010.