Smartphones, led by iPhone, rise to top of mobile-phone sales, study says

For the first time, more smartphones were sold than any other type of mobile phone, according to a new study.

Sales of smartphones rose 8% during the first three months of 2011 from the same period in 2010, research firm NPD Group said. Smartphones accounted for 54% of all mobile phone sales for the period.

However, overall mobile phone sales, which are made up of sales of smartphones and standard cellphones, fell 1% during the quarter from a year earlier, the research firm said.

Apple Inc., bolstered by the iPhone 4, sold more smartphones than HTC Corp. and Motorola Mobility Inc.

Apple's iPhone lineup jumped to third from fifth in terms of smartphone market share, in large part because of added sales from cell service carrier Verizon Wireless, NPD Group said. Apple's mobile phone sales accounted for 14% of the U.S. market in the first quarter, which put the Cupertino, Calif., tech giant ahead of rivals HTC, Motorola and Research in Motion Ltd.

Only Samsung Electronics, with a leading 23% share of the U.S. market, and LG Electronics, with 18%, beat out Apple in the quarter.

Apple's sales surge may continue. After about 10 months of delays, the white iPhone 4 went on sale Thursday at Apple, AT&T and Verizon stores.

"Apple and Verizon had a very successful launch of the iPhone 4, which allowed the iPhone to expand its market share that was previously held back by its prolonged carrier exclusivity with AT&T," said Ross Rubin, NPD's executive director of industry analysis. "While some of that growth came at the expense of Android operating system (OS), Android models still accounted for half of all smartphones sold in the quarter."

Though Android is still the most widely used operating system on smartphones in the U.S., its market share fell in the first quarter to 50%, from 53% in the previous quarter, the research firm said.

The decline is Android's first since the second quarter of 2009. Apple's iOS gained market share, jumping to 28% from 19% the previous quarter, while Research in Motion's BlackBerry OS fell to 14% from 19% a quarter earlier, the research firm said.

Verizon began selling the iPhone 4 in February, solidifying the Apple smartphone as the top-selling cellphone in the U.S., NPD said.

The Apple iPhone 3GS, the Motorola Droid X, the HTC EVO 4G, and the HTC Droid Incredible filled out the research firm's list of the five most popular cellphones for the first quarter.

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