Apple Passes Samsung to Become Global Smartphone Leader in 4Q11

In the fourth quarter of 2011, Apple sold 35.5 million iPhones, good for 23.8 percent of the worldwide market and surpassing Samsung’s 34 million smartphones sold, according to a report issued by Gartner on Wednesday. Apple’s share was 15.8 percent in 4Q10. The company is now the third-largest cell phone vendor in the world.

Overall, smartphone sales hit 149 million units sold in 4Q11, 47 percent growth year-over-year. For all of 2011, smartphone sales were up 58 percent, but Gartner is expecting that to slow to 39 percent in 2012.

Sizing up Apple’s prospects this year, Gartner analyst Roberta Cozza told Bloomberg: “The wild card for 2012 is China. If Apple closes a deal with China Telecom or China Mobile they could see their units double in that market.”

While Nokia remains the worldwide leader in overall cell phone sales, its share of the smartphone market in 4Q11 dropped to 12 percent from 30 percent the previous year, good for third place. Microsoft also declined, from 3.4 percent to 1.9 percent, but Ms. Cozza expects Windows Phone to grab an 8.6 percent share by the end of 2012.