UPDATE 1-Smartphone sales growth slowed in Q3 -Gartner

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HELSINKI, Dec 4 (Reuters) - Growth in the global smartphone market slowed to an annual 11.5 percent in the third quarter, research firm Gartner said on Thursday, noting this was the weakest growth since it began tracking the industry.

Some 36.5 million smartphones, or handsets with computer-like features such as e-mail, were sold globally in the July-September quarter, Gartner said. It did not say what the annual growth rate had been in the previous quarter.

All vendors are after a bigger slice of the smartphone market, which is set to continue growing next year but at an even slower rate than in the last quarter, while the wider handset market has a gloomy outlook, Gartner said.

“The current economic climate is negatively impacting sales of higher-end devices,” said Roberta Cozza, principal analyst at Gartner. “Going forward, we should expect the smartphone device market to continue to grow but at a slower pace.”

Nokia Oyj NOK1V.HE was still the market leader, but its smartphone sales fell, Gartner said.

“Nokia maintained its No. 1 position with 42.4 percent market share in the third quarter of 2008, but for the first time it recorded a decline in sales of 3 percent year-on-year,” Gartner said in a statement. (Reporting by Tarmo Virki; Editing by Jon Loades-Carter and David Holmes)