Current market estimates put 2011 global smartphone shipments at roughly 500 million and it seems as if three companies will dominate the world market.

According to a report published by Digitimes, Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) will be shipping 19-20 million smartphones in the first quarter, followed by RIM (Nasdaq: RIMM) with 14-15 million and HTC with 8-9 million. Apple's number is a sharp increase from the fourth quarter (15-16 million), RIM is apparently optimistic as well (up from 13-14 million), while HTC has decreased its numbers (down from 9-9.5 million).

The total comes to 41 to 44 million smartphones that have been ordered by these three manufacturers, which is about half of the total estimated market of 80-85 million units for the first quarter. However, the numbers seem to be a bit high, as Nokia (NYSE: NOK) is still believed to hit about 30% of the market, which means that those four companies could make up somewhere between 80% and 90% of the smartphone market -- and other big fish such as Samsung and LG have not been counted.

A major shift could be seen in the first quarter, however, as Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) is rolled out with more features that put Android phones on the same level as the iPhone 4. There will also be the first dual-core smartphone, which could shift vendor market share quite a bit.

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