Apple (s aapl) moved into second place in worldwide smartphone shipments during the first quarter of 2011, according to market research firm IDC. Apple is led only by Nokia (s nok), and is followed by Research In Motion(s rimm), Samsung and HTC, which round out the top five.
Apple’s shipments grew 114 percent from the previous year, jumping from 8.7 million to 18.7 million handsets, and achieved a new record shipment volume during this past quarter. It now trails world industry leader Nokia by only 5.5 million shipped units. Research In Motion shipped 13.9 million BlackBerry devices during the quarter, while Samsung and HTC had 10.8 and 8.9 million shipments, based largely on the strength of their Android (s goog) devices.
IDC attributes Apple’s terrific quarter to its triple-digit growth in the U.S. and China, and cites the CDMA-enabled iPhone as key to that growth. The company also signed on South Korean Telecom and Saudi Telecom during the quarter, both of which provided access to large pools of potential new iPhone buyers.
Overall, the entire smartphone market saw 79.7 percent growth year over year according to IDC, and even Nokia and RIM, both of which lost share as measured by percentage, actually saw total shipments rise. Apple was a strong contributor to the overall rise, but HTC and Samsung both made much more impressive advances as measured by percentage increase in shipments. Samsung, thanks to its strong Galaxy line of smartphones, saw a 350-percent increase in handsets shipped between 2010 and 2011, while HTC saw 229 percent growth. Both handset makers embraced Android early and are reaping the benefits over those who came late to the Android party.
Apple’s growth may not match that of Android handset makers in terms of percentage, but considering Apple’s existing reach, that would be hard to do. The growth it’s experiencing is still impressive, considering its 20-percent market share, but it still needs to start thinking about better ways to reach more potential subscribers. Signing on new carriers thanks to CDMA (and possibly world-phone versions) of its devices will help, but if, as Apple itself has suggested, it’s planning low-cost versions of its top-selling iPhone, that’s the surest way to guarantee growth continues to stay positive and even rise.