Report: Apple To Top Smartphone Shipments In 2011; Nokia’s Ship Has Sailed

Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) may still be too niche a player to be at the very top of the wider mobile handset rankings, but when it comes to smartphones, it looks like it will be producing some standout results this year. Apple will top the list for the most smartphone shipments for 2011, while the leader for the last decade, Nokia (NYSE: NOK), will see some of the worst declines of all.

The numbers, which were compiled by the researchers at the Taiwan blog Digitimes, are not based on actual sales. A recent report about Samsung’s shipments versus sales for one device, the Galaxy Tab, underscores how different the numbers can actually be. But at its best the number of shipments can be a good barometer for market expectation and demand for a product.

The figures speak for themselves, really, but a couple of interesting points:

» Apple will ship the most devices in 2011, but it’s not seeing the biggest growth: that honor goes to “others” — the many smaller players who are producing cut-price handsets based on Android OS and are sweeping up business particularly in markets like China. Indeed, Android is the fuel driving many of the OEM’s growth:

» The next-biggest improver is another Android licensee, Huawei, which will see growth of 484.4 percent in its smartphone shipments — but is still a relatively small-time player compared to others.

» Nokia’s decline of 25.8 percent in shipments — the biggest decline of all the named device makers — will still leave it in second place in terms of total number of smartphones shipped. It will be interesting to see whether Nokia can reverse the tide of decline in the year ahead.

» Samsung, which is eating away at Nokia in the overall mobile phone shipment standings, is also charging ahead in smartphones: it has grown 191 percent, putting it in third place with 67 million shipments.