Apple set to overtake BlackBerry in worldwide smartphone sales

The starting grid for the 2010 smartphone stakes looks set to be reshuffled as Apple closes the gap on RIM.

Estimates from market tracking firm Canalys show that while Nokia and RIM remain in first and second place with 38% and 19% of smartphone sales respectively they lost a combined share of 7.5% over the past year.

In the same period Apple enjoyed an unprecedented 131% growth in sales of the iPhone to snare 16% of total sales – a mere three points behind RIM.

Extending those same trends through the next three months would see Apple hit 20% share while RIM slumped back into third place with 16%.

Motorola and HTC also notched up triple-digit spurts from 2009 to 2010 with 139% and 105% respectively although their individual market shares are less than a third of Apple’s.

Canalys pegs worldwide smartphone sales in the first three months of this year at a record to 55.2 million recording a massive 67% boost over the previous 12 months.

Touchscreens were the other winner Canalys reports with over half of those 55-odd million smartphones using a touch-sensitive display.

32.6 million touchscreen phones were sold in the first three months of the year a growth of 187% from the start of 2009. A quarter of those were Apple’s iPhone while the rest were drawn from Nokia RIM HTC Motorola Samsung and Palm.

Smartphones with a QWERTY keyboard saw a 60% boost to 15 million devices or 27% of the market trailed by the rapidly shrinking set of smartphones with more conventional alphanumeric keypads.