Study: Apple Now The Globe’s Biggest Smartphone Maker

According to the published findings this week by prominent research firm IDC, the smartphone market hit all-time quarterly highs due to seasonal strength and a wider variety of offerings.

After a comprehensive review of fourth quarter 2011 earnings, IDC found that it is Apple – not Samsung – that claimed the top spot as the globe’s biggest smartphone maker.

Apple’s 37 million iPhone sales during the last quarter of 2011 was enough to secure top honors for the venerable Cupertino, California-based tech giant.

IDC says the top global smartphone vendors for the period are as follows: Apple, Samsung, Nokia, RIM, and HTC.

On a full-year basis, total smartphone shipment volumes reached 491.4 million units in 2011, up a strong 61.3% from the 304.7 million units in 2010. This was higher than IDC’s full year estimate of 54.7% for the year, but still below 2010’s year-over-year growth of 75.7%. Although this marks a slowdown from 2010, IDC still fully expects continued double-digit growth for the foreseeable future.

“So-called ‘hero’ devices, such as Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus and Apple’s iPhone 4S, garner the bulk of the attention heaped on the device type,” said Kevin Restivo, senior research analyst with IDC’s Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker program. “But a growing number of sub-$250 device offerings, based on the Android operating system, have allowed Google’s hardware partners to grow smartphone volumes and expand the market concurrently.”