Apple Overtakes Motorola, HTC

Apple has passed Motorola and HTC to become the third-largest phone maker in the U.S., underscoring the growing clout of the iPhone.

The Cupertino, Calif.-based company has 14 percent of the smartphone market, only behind RIM’s 18 percent and Samsung’s 23 percent, according to research group NPD.

Apple has sold over 100 million iPhone 4s since its release last year, in part, due to its partnership with Verizon.

Once Verizon started selling the iPhone 4 in February, Apple’s sales jumped by 2.2 million units. AT&T, meanwhile, sold 3.6 million devices, and international shipments accounted for 12.9 million.

“Apple and Verizon had a very successful launch of the iPhone 4, which allowed the iPhone to expand its market share that was previously held back by its prolonged carrier exclusivity with AT&T,” said Ross Rubin, NPD’s executive director.

But Android devices still make up 50 percent of smartphone sales. One reason for Android’s success has been Google’s ability to offer cheaper models that are increasingly able to perform just as well as higher-end phones. But Google hasn’t been able to match Apple’s tight hardware and software integration, which offer a smoother look and feel.

Apple is projected to release the iPhone 5, which is reportedly able to run on both GSM and CDMA networks, later this fall. Analysts expect Apple to sell just one version to AT&T and Verizon, boosting profits while eliminating separate production costs.

The iPhone 4 was the most popular smartphone, according to NPD, followed by the iPhone 3GS, Motorola Droid X, HTC Evo 4G and HTC Droid Incredible.

In addition, worldwide smartphone sales are expected to hit over 400 million units this year, up 40 percent from last year.

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