Surpassing Samsung, Apple became the world’s biggest smartphone vendor in the fourth quarter of 2011, according to new data from Gartner. “Almost a quarter of smartphones sold were iPhones as Apple’s market share rose to 23.8 percent from 15.8 percent a year earlier,” Bloomberg notes, citing Gartner. All told, Apple sold 35.5 million smartphones to consumers while Samsung sold 34 million. Global smartphone sales increased 47% to 149 million units. That said, Apple’s sequential growth may slow this quarter as pent-up demand was largely sated by holiday sales, Roberta Cozza, a Gartner analyst, told Bloomberg.
“The wild card for 2012 is China,” Cozza said. “If Apple closes a deal with China Telecom or China Mobile they could see their units double in that market.” For 2012, Gartner is forecasting 39% growth in smartphones, which is actually down from 58% last year. Google’s Android software ran on more than half of all smartphones sold, according to Gartner. Meanwhile, Nokia’s smartphone market share fell to 12% -- from about 30% a year earlier -- putting it in third place, Cozza said. Notes Bloomberg, Nokia’s share declined as the company shifted its focus to Microsoft’s Windows Phone software.