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HTC now top U.S. smartphone vendor

HTC's strategy of flooding the U.S. market with lots of devices and hoping some of them hit is really paying off.

ANALYSIS: Android smartphone smackdown: Motorola Droid Razr vs. Samsung Galaxy Nexus

Research firm Canalys reported this week that the Taiwanese smartphone manufacturer was the top smartphone vendor in the United States in the third quarter of 2011, as its 5.7 million estimated shipments gave it nearly a quarter of the U.S. smartphone market share. In taking the top spot in the U.S. smartphone market for the quarter, HTC beat out rivals Samsung, which shipped 4.9 million smartphones in the quarter, and Apple, which shipped 4.6 million smartphones in the quarter.

"However you count it, HTC has become a deserved leader in the U.S. smartphone market," says Canalys principal analyst Chris Jones. "This is an awesome achievement for HTC, which has built a premium brand... It now has a strong range of 4G Android products, with devices ranged by each of the major carriers."

HTC has worked hard to get to market first with handsets that employ the latest smartphone hardware and software. For instance, HTC's T-Mobile G1 was the first American handset to make use of Google's popular open-source Android operating system and the HTC Thunderbolt was the first smartphone capable of connecting to Verizon's 4G LTE network. Additionally, HTC also gave Sprint its first WiMAX-based smartphone, the HTC Evo 4G, which quickly became the flagship device on the Sprint network.

In the global market, Canalys found that Samsung was the most popular smartphone vendor in the third quarter this year, shipping 27.3 smartphones, or 252% more than the company shipped in the third quarter of 2010. Like HTC, Samsung has received a boost from its Android-based products such as its Galaxy series of smartphones and tablets. Most recently Samsung and Google teamed to create the Galaxy Nexus smartphone, which became the first device to run on Google's newest Android 4.0 (a.k.a., "Ice Cream Sandwich") platform that has been optimized for use on both tablets and smartphones. Among other things, Ice Cream Sandwich features a lock screen that can unlock using facial recognition software; Android Beam, a new technology that lets users send contact information, directions, Web pages and more though near-field communications technology by tapping their phones together; and integration with the Google+ social network that lets users host online video chats among their circles of friends.

And finally, Canalys said that the third quarter of 2011 posed more bad news for BlackBerry maker Research in Motion, whose market share in the U.S. slipped to below 10% for the first time since Canalys started tracking the smartphone market. RIM's 9% U.S. market share represents a precipitous drop from the 24% market share it posted in the third-quarter of 2010.

"The current outlook for [RIM] in the U.S. is certainly bleak," said Canalys senior analyst Tim Shepherd. "While Apple can now get away with not having a 4G smartphone, no other vendor in the U.S. can."

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