With an IDC-estimated 10.8 million units shipped during the first quarter of this year, Samsung files as the world’s fourth-largest smartphone vendor, behind Nokia, Apple and BlackBerry maker Research In Motion. However, the rising popularity of Samsung’s feature phones and dumb handsets powered by their own operating system called Bada has helped the Korean phone maker capture the #2 slot in terms of all handset units shipped globally.

Samsung was outdone only by Nokia in the first quarter. According to IDC’s Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker, Samsung shipped 70 million handset units during the first quarter of this year versus the 108.5 million Nokia phones. With 18.7 million iPhones Apple came in fourth, behind LG Electronics which shipped 24.5 million handsets. That was last quarter…

The global handset landscape is going to alter rapidly by the June quarter’s end, predicts Japanese research firm Nomura. Their analyst was quoted as saying that “Nokia looks set to relinquish its smartphone crown (in unit terms) to Samsung and Apple”. This means, their analyst argues, that Nokia will be #3, with Samsung and Apple taking the #1 and #2 slots, respectively. Mind you, Nokia has been the world’s top handset maker since 1996…

Samsung has risen to become the only vendor outside the Apple fold capable of mounting a formidable challenge to Apple’s gadgets. Samsung’s Galaxy S smartphones and Galaxy Tab tablets are at the center of a lawsuit Apple filed against Samsung. The Korean consumer electronics giant doesn’t view the Apple lawsuit as legally problematic even though Apple is accusing Samsung of blatantly copying and stealing their best ideas. Samsung’s Galaxy S smartphone has outsold the iPhone for the first time in Japan where Apple’s handset has been a huge hit with consumers. The Galaxy S II, a Galaxy S successor, could hit US shores shortly.

Cross-posted on 9to5Mac.com

First quarter 2011 global handset sales (above) and smartphones only (below). Data courtesy of IDC.

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