Image: HTC Droid Incredible
AP
HTC's Droid Incredible, with an 8-megapixel camera and carried by Verizon Wireless since the end of April, has been among HTC's many popular Android-based smart phones.
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msnbc.com
updated 8/6/2010 2:42:46 PM ET 2010-08-06T18:42:46

The worldwide smart phone market grew by 50 percent last year, "driven in large part" by makers of phones using Google's Android operating system, said IDC Research, the second firm this week to report on Android's growing importance.

Manufacturers Samsung and HTC posted the highest year-over-year growth rates among vendors, IDC said, with Samsung having a 172 percent increase and HTC, 128 percent over last year.

"Four of the top 10 vendors, all of whom predominantly ship Android-powered smart phones, posted year-over-year growth rates greater than 100 percent," the research firm said, with the top supplier of Android phones last quarter being HTC, based in Taiwan.

"Emerging smart phone suppliers, such as HTC, that are allied closely with Google gained share at the expense of the historic top smart phone players last quarter," said Kevin Restivo, IDC senior research analyst in a press release. "This is largely a result of greater consumer interest in smart phones generally and Android devices in particular."

Earlier this week, The NPD Group noted the same thing in terms of consumer interest in Android devices such as the HTC Droid Incredible and Motorola's Droid, with Android phones being the top sellers among consumers in the United States in the second quarter.

Other Android phones, more recently released, such as HTC's Evo 3G/4G on Sprint's network, and Motorola's Droid X on Verizon Wireless' network, are in high demand.

Worldwide, Nokia remains the No. 1 smart phone vendor. Many of Nokia's phones are not offered by wireless carriers in the United States. IDC noted that with the upcoming launch of Nokia's new operating system, the company hopes to reach more customers.

BlackBerry maker Research In Motion is No. 2 worldwide, reaching the 11 million-unit shipment figure "for the first time in the company's history," IDC said, largely because of its BlackBerry Pearl 3G and BlackBerry Tour 9650 phones in "multiple markets."

"The company maintained its second place global smart phone position for the seventh consecutive quarter," IDC said. In the U.S., RIM still retains its No. 1 spot as a smart phone platform, with 41.7 percent of the market at the end of May, although the company's market share is being nibbled away by Android-based phones and Apple's iPhone.

Apple maintained its spot as the No. 3 smart phone vendor, IDC said.

HTC is No. 4, remarkable considering that the Google G1, the first Android-based phone that was made by HTC, was not on the market until fall of 2008.

Samsung, at No. 5, is also the world's second largest mobile phone supplier, noted IDC, and "supplanted" Motorola in the top five rankings in the second quarter.

The South Korean-based company "benefited from a strong performance" in Asia when it launched its Android-based Galaxy S phone in South Korea. That phone — with a 4-inch screen — is also being sold under different names by carriers in the United States. At T-Mobile, for example, it is the Samsung Vibrant; at AT&T, it's the Samsung Captivate.

Improvements and upgrades to mobile phone operating systems by Nokia, RIM, Apple and Microsoft, should continue to drive smart phone sales, said Ramon Llamas, IDC senior research analyst.

"That more smart phone models will be launched is a given, but just as important is the anticipated launch of several refreshed operating systems," he said. "Both BlackBerry and Symbian ^3 are poised with fresh, yet familiar experiences while Windows Phone 7 promises a complete break from previous versions." (Msnbc.com is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC Universal.)

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