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Worldwide smartphone sales stay surprisingly strong

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No matter how bad the economy gets, a lot of consumers will still fork over a couple hundred bucks for the latest smartphone.

That's the lesson we learned today from the folks over at market research firm IDC. In a new report, IDC says vendors worldwide shipped 43.3 million devices in the third quarter of 2009 – up 3.2 percent from the second quarter of this year, and up 4.2 percent from the same time last year.

"Demand for converged mobile devices has remained strong all year," Ramon Llamas, senior research analyst with IDC's Mobile Devices Technology and Trends team said in a statement. "These devices provide more utility and entertainment than traditional mobile phones. Moreover, users have plenty of devices from which to choose, whether it be a multimedia powerhouse, a messaging machine, or a social networking tool."

Llamas predicted continued gains in the smartphone market. "As users expect greater functionality from their devices beyond telephony, we believe the converged mobile device market to grow faster than the overall mobile phone market," he said.

Top on the IDC list was Nokia, which IDC analysts called the "clear" worldwide leader in smartphone sales. (Interestingly, as IDC notes, Nokia "struggles" in North America.) Next was BlackBerry manufacturer Research in Motion, followed – in order – by Apple, HTC, and Samsung.

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