Apple has become the world's third largest smart phone supplier, despite offering its single iPhone product in just four countries so far.

New research from the analysts at Canalsys predicts the smart phone market reached 118 million units in 2007, up 53 per cent on 2006.

The 2,320,840 iPhones Apple shipped in the fourth quarter of 2007 equates to 6.5 per cent of the smartphone market in that quarter, edging Apple above Motorola (2,301,260 shipments), in third place behind Research In Motion and Nokia.

“When you consider that it launched part way through the year, with limited operator and country coverage, and essentially just one product, Apple has shown very clearly that it can make a difference and has sent a wake-up call to the market leaders,” said Pete Cunningham, Canalys senior analyst.

“What it must demonstrate now is that it can build a sustainable business in the converged device space, expanding its coverage and product portfolio. It will also need to ensure that the exclusive relationships that got it so far so quickly do not prove to be a limit on what it can achieve. Apple’s innovation in its mobile phone user interface has prompted a lot of design activity among competitors. We saw the beginnings of that in 2007, but we will see a lot more in 2008 as other smart phone vendors try to catch up and then get back in front."

Nokia remained dominant with 60.5 million smartpohones sold. Blackberry maker Research In Motion secured 12.2 million sales, up 112 per cent year-on-year.

Operating systems: Symbian dominates with 67 per cent of the market, Microsoft has 13 per cent and Research In Motion 10 per cent of the market.

As prevailing rumours claim Apple will release new model iPhones later this year in order to stimulate sales, Canalsys offered a warning: "Experience shows that a vendor with only one smart phone design, no matter how good that design is, will soon struggle. A broad, continually refreshed portfolio is needed to retain and grow share in this dynamic market. This race is a marathon, but you pretty much have to sprint every lap.”

Canalys estimates that Apple took 28 per cent share of the fast growing US converged device market in Q4 2007, behind RIM’s 41 per cent s, but a long way ahead of third placed Palm on 9 per cent s. This was also enough to put Apple ahead of all Windows Mobile device vendors combined, whose share was 21 per cent s in the quarter according to Canalys figures.

In Europe, where the iPhone was introduced half through the fourth quarter in only three countries, Apple took fifth spot behind Nokia, RIM, HTC and Motorola, but ahead of several established smart phone providers such as Sony Ericsson, Samsung and Palm.

In Q4 2007, Canalys estimates Symbian had a 65 per cent share of worldwide converged device shipments, ahead of Microsoft on 12 per cent and RIM on 11 per cent. By region, in North America RIM was the clear leader on 42 per cent, ahead of Apple on 27 per cent and Microsoft at 21 per cent.