Back in August, I mentioned that I recently joined the 21st century, purchasing my first third-generation (3G) cell phone through Verizon (NYSE:VZ). The wireless provider wasn't the only benefactor from the purchase, however, because my shiny new phone was a Motorola (NYSE:MOT) E815. Apparently, I wasn't the only one to buy a Motorola cell phone in the last few months, as Motorola's third-quarter results demonstrate.

Motorola reported its earnings after the market closed Tuesday, and investors liked the news, bidding the stock up 3.5% in Wednesday's midday trading. Net sales increase a supercharged 25.7% to $9.4 billion compared with the same period a year ago. The biggest driver of top-line growth was the flagship mobile devices unit (i.e., cell phones), which increased revenues an astounding 41%. This resulted in the company capturing an estimated 19% market share, up 5.5% from a year ago. Nokia (NYSE:NOK) remains the market-share leader with more than 30%.

But sales weren't the only area of dramatic improvement. Motorola achieved healthy gains in profitability, increasing its operating margins to 11.7%, a 36% improvement over last year. The primary reason was that it was able to keep selling, general, and administrative expenses in line with last year's level while growing revenues at a double-digit pace.

Strong sales and improving profitability led to Motorola's third-quarter earnings per share more than tripling to $0.69, but most of this was due to the company's sale of its Nextel stock. Excluding the Nextel stock sale, EPS still rose an excellent 85%.

Motorola made significant strides in gaining market share, and one would expect this to continue with its release of the ROKR handset. This cell phone is compatible with Apple Computer's (NASDAQ:AAPL) popular iTunes service and incorporates ATI Technologies' (NASDAQ:ATYT) graphics-chip know-how.

The handset market is as tough as any market out there when you consider the likes of Nokia and Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM), among others. But that is also what makes Motorola's results all the more impressive: It's succeeding despite the brutal competition. Its ability to continue this success will determine whether Motorola shareholders will benefit as much from the next three years as they have from the last three. These results are certainly a step in the right direction.

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Fool contributor Jeremy MacNealy does not own shares of any companies mentioned.