By Philip Elmer-DeWitt
February 7, 2012

Regained the spot that it took from Nokia in June and gave up to Samsung in September

It will come as no surprise to Apple (AAPL) watchers that the company sold 37 million iPhones last quarter. Tim Cook reported that number two weeks ago.

Getting comparable figures from Apple’s competitors is a different matter, and that’s where companies like IDC come in. Samsung, for example, used to report only the number of mobile phones it shipped — which is not the same as selling them — and in 2011 it stopped sharing even that.

So the report IDC publishes every quarter ranking the top smartphone manufacturers by its estimates of their worldwide shipments is a closely watched benchmark. Among the highlights of the press release it issued Monday: (I quote)

Apple climbed back into the market leadership position with the launch of its iPhone 4S worldwide, and in the process it reached a new shipment volume record for itself and for the entire industry for a single quarter.
Samsung marked a series of milestones for the quarter: breaking the 30 million units mark for the first time, posting the largest year-over-year increase among the top vendors, and finishing 2011 as the overall smartphone market leader.
Nokia posted the largest year-over-year decrease among the top vendors, but its smartphone strategy took another step forward with the release of its first Windows Phone smartphones.
Research In Motion finished the quarter with a mixed bag of results. Its new BB OS 7-powered BlackBerry smartphones reached additional markets, and total volumes for the quarter staved off a fourth consecutive quarter of sequential decline.
HTC: Despite the many high-profile launches during the quarter… the Taiwanese vendor still shipped lower volumes compared to the previous quarter.

Below the fold: IDC’s Q4 2011 spreadsheet.

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