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Apple's iPhone sales will decline in Q1 - Gartner

Analyst firm expects lower figures than the last, record-breaking quarter

Apple will see a quarter-on-quarter decline in iPhone sales in Q1 2012, analyst firm Gartner has forecast.

After a bumper Q4 2011, in which it sold 35.5 million smartphones to end users - a 121.4 percent increase year-on-year - Apple is likely to have a strong Q1 2012, but is unlikely to hit the same heights.

Apple took a 7.4 percent share of the mobile phone market in Q4 2011, though its share for the whole of 2011 was 5 percent. Key rival Samsung, however, had a share of 19.4 percent in Q4 2011, compared to 17.7 percent for the year.

It was Nokia that ended the year on top of the mobile phone market, though, with a 23.4 percent share in Q4 2011, having shifted 112 million units.

Over the whole year, Nokia sold 422 million handsets, giving it a leading market share of 23.8 percent for the year. Samsung sold 314 million handsets over the year, compared to Apple's 89 million, according to Gartner's figures.

When the smartphone market is separated out from the overall mobile phone market, though, Apple's contribution looks a lot more impressive.

There were 149 million global smartphone sales in the fourth quarter of 2011, a 47.3 percent increase from the fourth quarter of 2010. Total smartphone sales in 2011 reached 472 million units and accounted for 31 percent of all mobile devices sales, up 58 percent from 2010, Gartner said.

Apple also became the world's top smartphone vendor in Q4 2011, with a market share of 23.8 percent and the top smartphone vendor for 2011 as a whole, with a 19 percent market share.

"Western Europe and North America led most of the smartphone growth for Apple during the fourth quarter of 2011," said Roberta Cozza, principal research analyst at Gartner.

"In Western Europe the spike in iPhone sales in the fourth quarter saved the overall smartphone market after two consecutive quarters of slow sales."

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