We have known for some time that Nokia (NYSE: NOK) would lose its mobile-phone market dominance sooner or later, so it should not come as a surprise that Samsung has surpassed Nokia in a first critical market.

According to IDC, Samsung claimed a mobile-phone market share of 29.3% in Western Europe, up from 29.1% last year. Nokia dropped from 32.7% to 27.9%. Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) came in third with a jump from 6.9% to 9.8%, having sold about 4.4 million iPhones in Western Europe during the first quarter of the year, IDC said.

"Samsung and Apple achieved outstanding milestones this quarter in the region," said Francisco Jeronimo, European mobile devices research manager for IDC. "Samsung became the biggest mobile phone vendor in Western Europe and Apple the biggest smartphone vendor. These results show how volatile this market is and how important it is not to underestimate the trends. Companies like Nokia (and Ericsson in the past) may have strong brands and big market shares as Nokia always had, but can be overtaken by their competitors on a blink of an eye."

Apple leads the Western European smartphone market with a share of 20.8%, ahead of Nokia with 19.6% and Research In Motion with 16.5%.

Globally, Nokia held the position the world's largest smartphone vendor, with shipments of 24.2 million devices and a market share of 24.3% (down from 38.8% in Q1 of 2010). Apple was second with a share of 18.7%, up from 15.7% last year, while RIM remained slipped into third with a 14.0% share, down from 19.1% last year. Samsung, however, posted the strongest growth of about 350% in shipments, and a market-share gain from 4.3% to 10.8%.

IDC said 99.6 million smartphones were shipped in the first quarter of this year.

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