Number One

Few dispute that the introduction of the iPhone in 2007 transformed the mobile phone industry. It gave rise to Android, Windows Phone, and Palm's WebOS, and therefore the whole current model of the smartphone market. It pioneered proper mobile browsers, app stores, and phone gaming. And over the years it's made Apple a lot of money.

But in the last year, there's been talk of Apple's place in the smartphone market slipping. Google's Android software has overtaken Apple's iOS in terms of market share over the last year, at least in the phone market (in tablets, Apple's still miles ahead). But of course, Android is software, not a company, and it's used by scores of different smartphone manufacturers. So if you look at hardware, who is the king of the smartphone world? It turns out, it's Apple - just.

According to new research by analysts IDC, Apple is the world's biggest manufacturer of smartphones, with 19.1% of the market and a whopping 20 million phones shipped in the second quarter of 2011. The former leader, Nokia, is down in third place with just 15.7% of the market - still not bad for a company who many would say has never released a 'proper' modern smartphone. BlackBerry maker Research in Motion, about whom the same criticism has sometimes been made, is at number 4 with 11.6% of the market.

But hang on, who's second? Well, it might be a surprise, because it's not a phone maker as such, but a giant electronics conglomerate - Samsung. The Korean company has had great success with some of its Android handsets, notably the Galaxy S, pushing it to an impressive 16.2% of the smartphone market. And another Android maker, HTC, boasts 11% of the market.

Will Apple be able to retain its place at the top? We're not sure. The iPhone 5 will no doubt sell like hotcakes, but Samsung's market share has been steadily increasing and it seems likely they'll take the crown at some point. Nokia will be hoping its deal with Microsoft to run Windows Phone will help them reverse their recent decline. And RIM? Well, we'll have to see how those new handsets (see previous story) do...

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