smartphone researchApple and Samsung continue to dominate the global smartphone market. According to the latest stats from ABI Research, Apple and Samsung accounted for 55% of global smartphone shipments and more than 90% of the market’s profits in 1Q 2012.

Smartphone shipments surged 41% higher year-over-year in 1Q, to 144.6 million units. A lot of smartphone OEMs aren’t benefiting from the rapidly expanding market, however, according to ABI’s “Smartphone Market Data” report. Samsung and Sony were the only OEMs to register growth in shipments quarter over quarter in 1Q.

Nokia’s 1Q shipments slumped 40% sequentially. And RIM may pass Nokia in the global smartphone OEM rankings, even though its own shipments plunged 20% quarter-to-quarter in 1QABI noted. “At this point in the year, Nokia will have to grow its Windows Phone business 5000% in 2012 just to offset its declines in Symbian shipments,” commented Michael Morgan, ABI senior analyst – devices, applications & content.

Apple ranked second in OEM smartphone shipments in 1Q with 35 million, behind Samsung’s 43 million. Nokia ranked third with 11.9 million; RIM fourth, shipping 11.1 million in 1Q; and Huawei fifth with 6.8 million smartphones shipped during the quarter.

Smartphone penetration in North America and Western Europe exceeded 50%. Higher growth rates are evident elsewhere, such as in China, where smartphone shipments continue to grow at a rate of more than 80% per year, according to ABI. To compete in China, OEMs will have to contend with strong local vendors ZTE and Huawei, however.

“As Nokia’s market share in China plummets, the competition to fill this power vacuum has the potential to make or break smartphone OEMs currently struggling with profitability and differentiation,” added Jeff Orr, ABI practice director – devices, applications & content.