HELSINKI (Reuters) - Surging demand for the latest iPhone and Blackberry models helped Apple Inc and Research In Motion to win larger shares of the smartphone market in the third quarter at the expense of top vendor Nokia, market research firm Canalys said on Thursday.
Nokia's share of the market for smartphones -- handsets with computer-like features like e-mail -- fell to 38.9 percent in the quarter from 51.4 percent a year before, Canalys said.
However, Apple's market share jumped to 17.3 percent and RIM's to 15.2 percent in the quarter.
"The introduction of the iPhone 3G in July and Apple's expansion into many more countries helped propel the vendor to second place globally," Canalys said in a statement.
The researcher said it was "quite feasible" to expect RIM to take the second place from Apple in the holiday sales fueled fourth quarter, helped by new products -- Bold, Storm and clamshell Pearl 8220.
While growth in the wider cellphone market slowed to just 3 percent in the third quarter, the smartphone market grew 28 percent from a year ago to 40 million phones.
Nokia has led the smartphone market with a large margin for several years, but its sales fell from a year ago for the first time in the third quarter as it was only ramping up production of new top-end models.
The drop worries investors and analysts as this is expected to weigh on the Finnish group's profit margins.
The success of Apple and RIM pushed U.S. software giant Microsoft Corp, with its Windows Mobile, to the fourth spot on the smartphone operating system market with a 13.6 percent market share, Canalys said.
Symbian, the largest software vendor, saw its market share fall to 46.6 percent from 68.1 percent a year ago as its main user Nokia and smaller Japanese vendors lost ground.
Canalys said it expects to see next year a close battle between Apple, RIM, Microsoft and Linux for the No. 2 spot on smartphone software market.
(Reporting by Tarmo Virki, editing by Richard Chang)