Before last week came to an end, IDC released some pretty interesting figures regarding the status of the global phone market. Sales in the last quarter of 2010 grew by as much as 17.9% largely thanks to smartphones. To be more specific, 401.4 million smartphones were sold in Q4 2010 as compared to 340.5 million in the same quarter in 2009. As a whole, 1.39 billion phones were sold in 2010, which is 18.5% better than 2009.

Top Five Q4 2010

What’s surprising, however, is the new top 5 entrant, ZTE. Yes, that's the same relatively unknown handset maker from China. Not only did they become part of the elite group, but they did it in style knocking down Apple a notch and booting the likes of RIM/BlackBerry and Sony Ericsson out of the shortlist.

Nokia is still king with 30.8% market share in Q4 2010 and 32.6% in 2010 as a whole. Samsung (20.1% for Q4/20.2% for 2010) and LG (7.6%,/8.4%) took the no. 2 and 3 spot respectively. ZTE is the new no. 4 phone maker in the world with 4.2% market share in Q4 and 3.4% for the entire 2010. Apple dropped down to 5th place with just 4% share in Q4 and 3.4% for 2010 as a whole.

Kudos to ZTE for a job well done. The more important question is, can they sustain this through out 2011? I’m sure this is what they’re hoping for, but only time will tell. One thing’s pretty clear here, though, competition is definitely heating up and if phone makers don’t get you’re a game on, they can bid their dreams of being one of top dogs in this industry goodbye.