Apple became the top smartphone maker globally for the first time in the second quarter, IDC confirmed Thursday.
Apple shipped 20.3 million iPhones in the second quarter, ahead of Samsung, Nokia, RIM, HTC and others, in that order.
In the first quarter of 2011, Apple shipped 18.7 million iPhones, second to Nokia's 24.2 million smartphone shipments. Notably, Nokia is undergoing a transition to the Windows Phone platform, away from its Symbian devices. But it won't have Windows Phones out until late this year.
"The smartphone market crowned a new leader in second quarter, and its name is Apple," said Ramon Llamas, an IDC analyst. He said Apple has made huge strides since the iPhone's launch in 2007.
"Demand has been so strong that even [iPhone] models that have been out for one or two years are still being sought out," Llamas noted. "With an expected refresh later this year, volumes are set to reach higher levels."
Other market research companies have noted Apple's move to the top , including Strategy Analytics.
While Apple is on top as a manufacturer of smartphones, its iOS software is not the biggest globally. That mark goes to Android, which is used by several manufacturers, including Samsung and HTC. IDC will report on platform shipment totals for the second quarter in September, Llamas said in an email. Android first reached the top spot in the fourth quarter of 2010.
IDC said Apple's success stems from selling iPhones through more than 200 carriers in 200 countries, as well as its increased manufacturing capacity. While Apple has reached the top spot, it is still below Nokia's single-quarter record of shipping 28 million smartphones.
Samsung, in second place with 17.3 million smartphones shipped in the second quarter, saw 380% growth over the second quarter of 2010. Part of the reason is Samsung's popular line of Galaxy S smartphones, based on Android, IDC noted.
Research in Motion, finishing fourth with 12.4 million smartphones shipped in the quarter, saw only a 10% increase from a year ago. That is the lowest level of growth of the top five smartphone makers (although Nokia actually declined by 30%). Part of RIM's problem was that it released only a few new models in 2011, IDC noted.
IDC said that while Apple has hit the top spot, there is still no runaway leader, and the top five rankings could change in coming quarters.