Smartphone shipments dipped in the first quarter compared with the previous quarter, a type of decline that hasn't happened for a couple of years, according to iSuppli.

Phone makers shipped 97.2 million phones in the first quarter, down 1.5 percent from the 98.7 million shipped in the fourth quarter. Though many electronics products face a slump early in the year following holiday sales in the fourth quarter, smartphones haven't experienced such a decline since the beginning of 2009, iSuppli said.

Nokia and Motorola drove the shipment declines. Nokia shipments were down 14.5 percent sequentially, and Motorola shipments were down 16.3 percent. Nokia's recently announced tie-up with Microsoft drove down its shipments, iSuppli analyst Tina Teng said. "With the announcement of the deal, Nokia eliminated the incentive for consumers to buy its existing smartphone products, which are based on its Symbian and MeeGo operating systems. Meanwhile, the Microsoft deal is unlikely to yield any products for nearly one year," she wrote in a summary of the report.

Troubles at Motorola, as well as slowing growth at Samsung and HTC, stem from the iPhone's availability on Verizon's network, she said.

Despite the declines at Motorola and Nokia, Teng said the reduced overall shipments are the result of inventory control efforts rather than weakening consumer demand. ISuppli continues to expect 60 percent growth in worldwide smartphone shipments for the full year 2011.

Apple stood out for its growth in a market that declined overall, she said. Its 14.9 percent growth put it just 5.7 percentage points behind Nokia, compared with 12.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010, iSuppli found.

Research In Motion's shipments were up 4.2 percent in the first quarter compared with the fourth. But it still lost ground to Apple. In the first quarter, RIM was 4 percentage points behind Apple in terms of shipments, compared with 2.1 points in the fourth quarter.