Apple Cuts Nokia's Smartphone Lead

CUPERTINO, Calif. ( TheStreet) -- Apple ( AAPL) has slashed the gap on smartphone market leader Nokia ( NOK), according to the latest figures from tech research firm IDC.

With 24.2 million smartphones shipped during the first quarter, Nokia remains at the head of the smartphone pack, although IDC says that Apple is hot on the heels of the Finnish firm, recording record single-quarter shipments of 18.7 million devices.

Nokia shipped 12 million smartphones more than Apple during the prior quarter, so the latest numbers show the California firm gaining serious ground on its rival, boosted by new offerings such as the Verizon ( VZ) iPhone.

"The company posted market-beating year-over-year growth and recorded triple-digit growth in two key markets: the United States, with the release of its CDMA-enabled iPhone, and Greater China," explained IDC, in a statement. "Additionally, the company enlisted South Korean Telecom and Saudi Telecom as carrier providers of the iPhone."

In addition to Apple's deal with Verizon ( VZ) to sell the CDMA iPhone, IDC also highlighted Apple's recent partnerships with South Korea Telecom and Saudi Telecom as evidence of its continuing iPhone momentum.

The consumer tech giant, whose iPhone tracking practices have recently come under scrutiny, is certainly enjoying phenomenal demand for its smartphones. Record iPhone sales laid the foundations for the company's stellar second-quarter results. Apple's iPhone shipments leapt a massive 113% during its fiscal second quarter, accounting for half of the firm's total revenue of $24.7 billion.

Investors are anticipating a further boost when the the iPhone 5 finally appears. Apple, however, is apparently eschewing its traditional June iPhone launch, fueling speculation that the device may not appear until the fall.

After Nokia and Apple, Research In Motion ( RIMM) remained solidly in third place in the smartphone market, according to IDC, but grew its presence outside of its home market in North America. Fourth-placed Samsung, though, enjoyed the largest year-over-year gain of any company on the list, with shipments climbing a massive 350% thanks to its multiple operating systems and the growing popularity of Google's ( GOOG) Android OS.

Taiwanese tech giant HTC rounded out the list of top smartphone vendors, although it enjoyed record shipment volumes during the first quarter, almost reaching 10 million units for the first time.

Apple shares rose $2.53, or 0.73%, to $349.28 on Friday.

--Written by James Rogers in New York.

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