Summary:

In the first quarter, Research In Motion sold the most smartphones in the U.S., garnering a 42 percent marketshare, easily beating Apple (NS…

In the first quarter, Research In Motion sold the most smartphones in the U.S., garnering a 42 percent marketshare, easily beating Apple (NSDQ: AAPL), which ranked second with a 20 percent marketshare. Apple’s position is still impressive given that in the year-ago period, it had sold zero iPhones. Across the world, Nokia (NYSE: NOK) dominated the smartphone market, at 45.2 percent; Research In Motion came in second place at 13.4 percent; and Apple garnered third place at 5.3 percent, according to Gartner’s smartphone sales report released today. The report is interesting to juxtapose with next week’s announcement by Apple, which is expected to release its highly-anticipated second-generation iPhone, featuring 3G. Overall, Gartner said the smartphone market is healthy and still growing worldwide and in North America. In Q1, worldwide smartphone sales totaled 32.2 million units, a 29.3 percent increase from a year ago, and in North America, smartphone sales totaled 7.3 million, jumping 106.2 percent compared to a year ago.

Some highlights:

– Nokia: Nokia’s sales jumped 25 percent in the quarter compared to last year, and dominates around the world, including in Europe, Asia/Pacific and Latin America because of its portfolio that includes both high-end and mid-tier models.

– Research in Motion: In Q1, RIM (NSDQ: RIMM) held onto second place compared to 8.3 percent in the year-ago period. RIM’s sales are driven by sales its consumer-focused devices, like the BlackBerry Curve and Pearl. In the U.S. market, RIM ranked No. 1 with a 42 percent marketshare.

– Apple: Apple sold 1.72 million units in the quarter to garner the third-place spot. In the U.S., Apple became the No. 2 vendor in smartphone sales with its market share reaching with 20 percent, which is possible most impressive because it compares to a marketshare of zero in the year-ago period.

– U.S. vs. Europe: Gartner’s analyst Carolina Milanesi said smartphone growth was driven by replacement phones in Europe, and expansion in the smartphone market in the U.S., which increased its regional share to almost equal sales in Western Europe.

– Economic concerns: The smartphone market continued to expand in the U.S., driven by heavy advertising and strong marketing promotions as more devices reached mass market price points, said Hugues De La Vergne, Gartner’s principal analyst. Operators are expected to continue to make these devices the focus of 2008 promotions in order to increase ARPUs.

Chart is below (click to enlarge):

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