Apple Passes RIM in Global Smartphone Share

Despite Steve Job’s obvious distaste for the company, Research in Motion (RIM) (s rimm) has long remained ahead of Apple (s aapl) in the global smartphone market. Not any longer, according to research firm Strategy Analytics, which reported yesterday that the iPhone shipped more units than did BlackBerry during 2010’s third quarter.

However, it wasn’t really a terrible loss for RIM, as the entire smartphone market grew 78 percent overall. Though Apple did surpass RIM in sales volume (and seems poised to ship even more in the future, since supply constraints provided a choke point in 2010), it still has a long way to go before it approaches Nokia (s nok), the reigning king of the smartphone hill.

Nokia shipped 26.5 million devices during the three-month period. Apple, by contrast, shipped only 14.5 million, almost half as much as its biggest rival. Nokia benefits from a much greater presence in Asia and Europe, and will be hard to shake from its lofty perch, though it’s losing ground. It held 34.4 percent of the market in this latest scan, down from 37.8 percent from the same period the previous year.

Apple’s market share grew from 17.0 to 18.3 percent over the year. The BlackBerry’s take dropped as much as Nokia’s, falling from 19.6 to 16.1 percent; RIM shipped 12.3 million devices during the quarter. The Canadian company is missing out in large part due to “a limited presence in the high-growth touchscreen segment” according to Strategy Analytics.

According to analysts from Canacord Genuity, a firm 0perating in RIM’s own backyard, Apple’s lead in the smartphone market may be insurmountable at this point, even for Google (s goog).

Following Monday’s conference call, the firm raised its target price on Apple stock to $421 and called Apple “unbeatable.” Analyst Micheal Walkley said simply, “We agree with his views,” referring to Jobs’ claim that “we’ve now passed RIM and I don’t see them catching up with us in the foreseeable future.” Analysts also agreed that Android was too fragmented, and argued that the App Store’s head start in terms of its software library is a market-defining advantage.

Unbeatable is a strong word to use in a sector as prone to transformative change as mobile tech, but Apple is currently occupying a position in the market that almost no one would’ve predicted five years ago, so perhaps in this case, it’s merited.

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