NEW YORK ( TheStreet) - Apple ( AAPL) proved again why its share price is soaring past $500, and hedge fund managers are flocking to the stock in droves. During the fourth quarter, information technology research and advisory firm Gartner ( IT) announced that Apple has overtaken Samsung as the world's top smartphone vendor, selling a robust 35.5 million units. This varies from the 37.04 million iPhones Apple said it sold during the quarter, which may be because Apple's fiscal first quarter was slightly longer than the calendar fourth quarter.
Gartner noted that Apple captured 23.8% of the smartphone market during the fourth quarter, and 19% of the market for all of 2011, as the iPhone became increasingly popular, thanks in part to brisk sales of the iPhone 4S. The press release said sales of the iPhone 4S in mature markets and weakness seen in key Android vendors led to Apple surpassing Samsung during the quarter. "Western Europe and North America led most of the smartphone growth for Apple during the fourth quarter of 2011," explained Roberta Cozza, a principal research analyst at Gartner, in the press release. "In Western Europe the spike in iPhone sales in the fourth quarter saved the overall smartphone market after two consecutive quarters of slow sales." Android was still the leading smartphone operating system during the fourth quarter, with 50.9% market share, but Apple's iOS inched closer, coming in at 23.8%, up 8% from the fourth quarter of 2010. Both Nokia ( NOK) and Research In Motion ( RIMM) continued to lose market share year-over-year, as both companies are having trouble competing with the likes of Apple, as well as phones built around Google's ( GOOG) Android. Nokia's Symbian and Research In Motion were third and fourth in operating system share during the fourth quarter of 2011. Bada and Microsoft ( MSFT) were in fifth and sixth place, respectively. Apple shares were down $1.79, or 0.35%, to $507.67 in Wednesday trading. Interested in more on Apple? See TheStreet Ratings' report card for this stock. Check out our new tech blog, Tech Trends. -- Written by Chris Ciaccia in New York >To follow the writer on Twitter, go to http://twitter.com/commodity_bull. >To submit a news tip, send an email to: email@example.com