This is a rare treat. We get occasional updates of regional market shares for smartphones, but it’s next to impossible for two key region reports to get released simultaneously and for the same quarter. Because of this, we cannot get solid split of smartphone shipments on a regional basis. Luckily, the stars were kindly aligned for the third quarter.

You see, both Canalys and Strategy Analytics came with their market share numbers for the US and Western Europe, respectively, and both research firms focused on the third quarter of 2010. Why’s that important? Because North American and Western European markets together account for half the smarthphones sold globally. 

As such, the two markets provide a pretty compelling overview of the global market as a whole. The fact that both reports cover the same period of time gives us a rare insight into the top 3 smartphone makers – Nokia, RIM and Apple. Before we begin, you should know that we’re focusing here on the regional market split as measured y handsets sold, not by revenue.

Also worth mentioning, the two research firms didn’t report uniform total numbers. Instead, their total count of smartphones for the third quarter differs by five percent, which is typical variation. Therefore, please recognize their numbers shouldn’t be directly compared, although they’re close enough to give us the insights or at least enough to warrant this post, yes?

The surveys pegged smartphone sales in the third quarter of 2010 at 80 million units in total. This number is split between key markets as follows, according to these two analysts:

  • North America – 26 percent (21 million units)
  • Western Europe – 24 percent (19 million units)
  • Rest of the World – 50 percent (40 million units), 26% in North America (21M) and 24% in Western Europe (19M). The total quarter was 80M.

Nokia clearly ships the vast majority of its smartphones to the Rest of the World market that comprises everything but North America and Western Europe. That’s because an average price of a Nokia smartphone is less than a third of Apple’s and about half of RIM’s.

Nokia shipped 51 percent of its total third quarter smartphone output into this market. They sold 32 percent of smartphones in Western Europe, another big market for Nokia. As for North America, Nokia shipped just one percent of its smartphones into this market.

RIM’s best-selling market is North America, no surprises there. The BlackBerry maker sold 41 percent of its Q3 BlackBerry handsets to North America, 35 percent of Blackberries went to the Rest of the World, and 24 percent to Western Europe.

Apple, meanwhile, sold 39 percent of all iPhones in the third quarter to North America. The company’s second best market is Western Europe where they managed to sell 33 percent of all iPhones, while Rest of the World gulped the remaining 28 percent of iPhones.

Fascinating. I wish we had this kind of splits reported more often. Nothing dramatically surprising has risen as a result of these data points, but it’s nice knowing other people’s estimates and research are very consistent with my internal analysis.

Also, if you’re interested in more high-quality smartphone and dumbphone data split by regions and coupled with opinionated analysis, you might want download my free e-book titled The Insider Guide to Mobile.