Worldwide smartphone sales stay surprisingly strong

Market research firm IDC says Nokia leads the pack in worldwide smartphone sales. But BlackBerry isn't far behind.

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No matter how bad the economy gets, a lot of consumers will still fork over a couple hundred bucks for the latest smartphone.

That's the lesson we learned today from the folks over at market research firm IDC. In a new report, IDC says vendors worldwide shipped 43.3 million devices in the third quarter of 2009 – up 3.2 percent from the second quarter of this year, and up 4.2 percent from the same time last year.

"Demand for converged mobile devices has remained strong all year," Ramon Llamas, senior research analyst with IDC's Mobile Devices Technology and Trends team said in a statement. "These devices provide more utility and entertainment than traditional mobile phones. Moreover, users have plenty of devices from which to choose, whether it be a multimedia powerhouse, a messaging machine, or a social networking tool."

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Llamas predicted continued gains in the smartphone market. "As users expect greater functionality from their devices beyond telephony, we believe the converged mobile device market to grow faster than the overall mobile phone market," he said.

Top on the IDC list was Nokia, which IDC analysts called the "clear" worldwide leader in smartphone sales. (Interestingly, as IDC notes, Nokia "struggles" in North America.) Next was BlackBerry manufacturer Research in Motion, followed – in order – by Apple, HTC, and Samsung.

Of course, it's been one of the busier weeks in history for smartphone aficionados. Today was the official release of the Droid, the much-hyped smartphone built by the folks over at Motorola. Verizon has been saturating the airwaves with a commercial touting the Android-equipped Droid as the phone that could finally knock the Apple iPhone off its perch in the US, and at least a few reviewers concur.

Meanwhile, many bloggers have whipped themselves into a frenzy over a second Droid smartphone, which is being manufactured by the Taiwan company HTC. The Droid Eris, which will also be sold by Verizon, will reportedly get a price tag of $100, less than half the cost of the Motorola Droid, and right in line with the BGM estimate on a cheaper iPhone.

Among the features on the HTC Droid Eris are a Qualcomm MSM 7600 528MHz processor, a 5.0 megapixel auto focus camera, and a 3.2 inch 320×480 HVGA capacitive touch screen.

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