Study: Apple surpasses LG as world’s third-biggest mobile phone maker

Market research firm IDC reported this week that Apple has surpassed LG Electronics to become the third largest mobile phone maker, behind Nokia and Samsung.

Neither Nokia nor Samsung have anything to fear from Apple for the moment – they’re both way out in front, with 27 and 21.3 percent of the market, respectively, while Apple has carved out a 6 percent share for itself. Apple’s year-over-year growth is astonishing, however – 96.2 percent.

IDC aggregates both smart phones and feature phones together in that number, so it’s worth noting that Apple only competes in one of those markets – smart phones – while Nokia and Samsung both make feature phones as well. IDC noted that the market for feature phones was soft in the fourth quarter of 2011; in fact, it was slowest since the third quarter of 2009 during the height of the global economic recession.

Feature phones still remain top dog in the mobile phone market, noted IDC senior research analyst Ramon Llamas. “Even though their proportion is eroding, feature phones maintain their appeal on the basis of price and ease of use.”

Android smartphones continue to make inroads to new markets as their price creeps down, but Apple products remain in high demand in places like North America, China and Japan. Apple is also making “quiet progress” in Central Europe, the Middle East and Africa, according to IDC.