All hail the new king. According to researcher IDC, Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) led the world in fourth-quarter smartphone sales. Here's a closer look at the data:

Vendor

Q4 2011 Shipment Volumes (mil.)

Q4 2011 Market Share

Q4 2010 Shipment Volumes (mil.)

Q4 2010 Market Share

Year-Over-Year Change

Apple37.023.5%16.215.9%128.4%
Samsung36.022.8%9.69.4%275.0%
Nokia19.612.4%28.127.6%(30.6%)
Research In Motion13.08.2%14.614.3%(11.0%)
HTC10.26.5%8.78.5%17.2%
Others42.026.6%24.824.3%69.4%
Total157.8100%102.0100%54.7%

Source: IDC.

Three things strike me looking at this table:

  1. The iPhone wasn't the fastest grower. Samsung and its range of Android-powered phones led, growing more than twice as fast as the iPhone. That's nitpicking, I realize, since both companies enjoyed triple-digit unit sales growth. Every other named vendor badly trailed the industry's 54.7% average growth rate.
  2. "Other" includes some big names. Notice who didn't make the list. Motorola Mobility (NYSE: MMI) was a non-factor, as was LG. Don't expect Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) to be happy about that. While the deal for Moto's mobile group has yet to close, executives had to be hoping the acquisition would provide hardware heft in a worldwide fight against Apple for market share. Instead, it's HTC and Samsung leading the robot revolution -- and they're both working with Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) to deliver Windows Phone handsets.
  3. Nokia needs help now. The former Finnish phenom beat modest expectations last quarter, but as these numbers demonstrate, time is running out. Growth won't return unless the Lumina Windows smartphone turns out to be an unqualified hit.

Android still leads in operating system share globally thanks to the number of smartphone partners the Big G is working with, but the gap is closing due to outrageous iPhone sales. Apple is coming for you, Google. Watch your back.

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Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers stock-picking team. He owned shares of Apple and Google at the time of publication. Check out Tim's web home, portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Google+ or Twitter, where he goes by @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader.

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