The latest report from Gartner on global smartphone market share revealed a lot about how Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL), Research In Motion Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) (TSE:BB) and Nokia Corporation (NYSE:NOK) (BIT:NOK1V) (HEL:NOK1V) are doing in the smartphone race. Analysts at Raymond James took a closer look at the raw data and were able to determine several key points.

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Global Smartphone Growth Estimates

Of course the main takeaway from the research report was that Asia and the Pacific region led global mobile phone sales during the first three months of the year. Most of these areas are emerging markets, and Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. (LON:BC94) (KRX:005930) remains the dominant force around the globe.

Raymond James analysts Tavis C. McCourt and Daniel Toomey said after viewing the report, they updated their smartphone numbers to indicate a greater mix shift to smartphones. Almost half of all handsets being sold around the world are now smartphones, which shows that smartphone volumes are currently seeing a 43 percent year over year growth.

The analysts said they originally expected global smartphone growth to decelerate to between 25 and 30 percent this year, but because of how strong emerging markets are, they’ve pushed their expectations up to 36 percent for this year.

Smartphone Penetration In China

However, they warn that this could slow to the 20 percent or even lower next year as smartphone penetration in China rises. They note that smartphone growth in emerging markets was 66 percent year over year, significantly outpacing the global 43 percent growth. In China alone, the smartphone market skyrocketed 110 percent year over year in the first quarter after a staggering 105 percent in the fourth quarter of last year.

After this year, it’s expected that India and Latin America will become the drivers for smartphone growth as China’s market becomes more highly penetrated.

Apple Inc. (AAPL) Is Holding Steady

During the first quarter of the year, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) posted its second best quarter for iPhone sales ever. However, year over year sell through growth fell to 16 percent according to the research from Gartner.

Of course it’s to be expected that Apple is losing out significantly in growth to Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. (LON:BC94) (KRX:005930), which has a 59 percent growth rate. At this point Apple isn’t addressing emerging markets, so this is a trend we won’t see change until the company releases a low cost iPhone.

McCourt and Toomey said they would accept a lower price point for the iPhone and / or new form factors in order for Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) to gain smartphone market share. In terms of form factor, they’re looking specifically for an iPhone with a larger screen.

Research In Motion Ltd (BBRY) Struggles In Emerging Markets

Research In Motion Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) (TSE:BB)’s recent quarterly report shows just how much the company is struggling in emerging markets because its first two new handsets, the BlackBerry Z10 and the BlackBerry Q10, both address the high end market. In their view, it makes more sense for Research In Motion Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) (TSE:BB) to roll out BlackBerry Messenger to other platforms because it has been the main driver of BlackBerry adoption, especially to low end Android devices.

Nokia Corporation (NOK) Fights Back

Gartner also found that Nokia Corporation (NYSE:NOK) (BIT:NOK1V) (HEL:NOK1V)’s smartphone volumes fell 56 percent year over year to 5.9 million, not including its Asha handsets. Overall, the company’s handset volumes fell 24 percent. In their view, there’s “little evidence of success as of yet in Nokia’s handset turnaround strategy.”

The one problem McCourt and Toomey may be missing is the fact that Nokia’s market share problems were due to the lower Asha volumes. It’s actually seeing some small growth in its Lumia line, and with the introduction of the refreshed Asha handset, this is a trend that we could see start to change by the end of the year.