Worldwide mobile phone sales rose 17 percent to 314.7 million units in the first quarter of 2010, when compared to the same period in 2009, according to a report out today from Gartner.

The strong growth in overall mobile phone sales was largely attributable to the double-digit growth of smartphone sales in mature markets.

The research firm says smartphone sales were 54.3 million units, an increase of 48.7 per cent from the first quarter of 2009. Smartphones accounted for 17 percent of overall sales in the January to March timeframe, up from 13.6 percent last year.

Among manufacturers, Nokia remained the market leader with sales of 110.1 million units despite a 1.2 per cent decline in market share to 35% year-on-year. Rounding out the top five in unit sales was Samsung (64.9 million), LG (27.2 million), Research in Motion (10.5 million) and Sony Ericsson (9.9 million).

Among the top five, Research in Motion (RIM), makers of Blackberry Smartphones, recorded the biggest percentage sales increase of 45.9%. RIM became the first pure smartphone player to make the top five list.

The other up an comer among smartphone players was Apple which recorded its strongest quarter yet. The company saw sales increase 112% over the same quarter a year earlier to 8.4 million units and is now the No. 7 position.

In the smartphone OS market, Android and Apple were the winners in the first quarter of 2010 (see Table below ). Android moved to the No. 4 position displacing Microsoft Windows Mobile for the first time. Both Android and Apple were the only two OSs vendors among the top five to increase market share year-on-year. Symbian remained in the No. 1 position but continued to lose as Nokia remains weak in the high-end portfolio.

Smartphones accounted for 17.3 per cent of all mobile handset sales in the first quarter of 2010, up from 13.6 per cent in the same period in 2009.

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