The iPhone is No. 4

With 90%-plus growth, Apple vaults past RIM and is gaining rapidly on Nokia and LG

The iPhone has been one of the world's top selling smartphones almost since it hit the market three years ago. But in the larger, 1.2-billion-units-per-year mobile phone market, it never cracked the top five.

Until now.

In IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker survey, issued late Thursday, Apple (aapl) overtook Research in Motion (rimm) to become the world's fourth largest manufacturer not just of smartphones, but of all mobile phones.

"The entrance of Apple to the top 5 vendor ranking underscores the increased importance of smartphones to the overall market," said IDC's Kevin Restivo in a prepared statement. "Moreover, the mobile phone makers that are delivering popular smartphone models are among the fastest growing firms."

Apple's unit sales nearly doubled year over year in calendar Q3. By contrast, No. 1 Nokia's (nok) grew 1.8%, No. 2 Samsung's less than 20% and No. 3 LG Electronics shrank more than 10%.

Below: IDC's spreadsheet.

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[Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter @philiped]

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