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Smartphones shipments leapt 30 per cent year on year during Q4 2009 to 53m units, well ahead of the 12 per cent growth seen by handsets as a whole.

According to market watcher Strategy Analytics, the top three vendors all shipped considerably more smartphones during the quarter - and the year as a whole - while their other competitors combined experienced the exact opposite.

Nokia, Research in Motion and Apple all achieved higher market shares in Q4 2009 than they did in Q4 2008. Nokia and RIM saw modest growth: from 37 per cent to 39.2 per cent for Nokia, and from 18.6 per cent to 20.2 per cent for RIM.

Apple's jumped from 10.8 per cent to 16.4 per cent on the back of an almost doubling in unit shipments: 4.4m to 8.7m. Nokia's shipments went from 15.1 smartphones to 20.8m, RIM's from 7.6m to 10.7m. Both RIM and Apple have some way to go to challenge Nokia's lead, but Apple isn't very far behind the BlackBerry maker.

Other vendors' combined unit shipments fell from 13.7m to 12.8m.

For 2009 as a whole, Nokia took 39 per cent of the world smartphone market, RIM 19.8 per cent, Apple 14.4 per cent and everyone else 26.7 per cent.

Missing from the data is Android's contribution, but most analysts forecast big things for the Google OS during 2010 as more vendors introduce devices based upon it.

“The smartphone market will become ultra competitive in 2010," predicted SA's Neil Mawston. "Samsung and LG have ambitious plans to grow volumes and expand their app stores, while emerging players like Dell and Huawei are strengthening their device portfolios and courting major operators.

"The smartphone wars will be good news for consumers,” he added. ®

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