The pace of cell-phone sales gains continues to pick up, as new figures show strong trends across nearly all regions and price ranges. The top two handset makers, Nokia ( NOK) and Motorola ( MOT), extended their leads on the rest of the pack with popular designs and cheap phones in new markets. Samsung held steady at No. 3, and Sony Ericsson bounced LG out of the fourth slot on the strength of its new Walkman music phone. Overall, worldwide sales surged 22% from a year ago, with 205 million phones shipped in the third quarter ended in September, according to market research by Gartner. Those figures compare with a 21% year-on-year rise in the second quarter, to 190 million units. Given this year's torrid sales pace and expectations for an usually robust Christmas season, industry watchers are even more optimistic about the full-year performance. Gartner now predicts 810 million phones will be sold this year, marking a 28% increase over last year. Analysts cite the ability of Nokia and Motorola to build cheap -- $40 or below -- phones for markets like Brazil and India, where new wireless networks are expanding across areas that were previously not served by phone companies. Nokia added to its lead in the quarter, controlling 32.6% of the handset market. That compares with a 31.9% take last quarter and the 31% share the Finnish company held a year ago. Motorola was the biggest gainer in market share, thanks largely to sales of 6 million thin Razr phones in the quarter. Motorola grabbed 18.7% of the market last quarter, compared to 17.9% in the prior period and 13.5% a year ago.
Motorola Momentum Third-quarter market share
Samsung kept its third-place status but lost market share in the most recent quarter. Samsung had 12.5% of the market, falling from 13.7% in the year-ago period.
Even though AT&T tried a last-minute bribe of promising 5,000 new U.S. jobs to help gain support for the deal, the Justice Department filed a complaint to fight the combination of the nation's No. 2 and No. 4 wireless carriers.