Research firm Gartner has come out with its third quarter global mobile sales numbers and overall, the industry grew 5.6% from the same period last year. About 440.5 million cellphones were sold, with 115 million of those being of the smart variety, a 42% growth rate from Q3 2010 but only 7% growth from Q2 2011. The feature phone market is being buoyed by emerging markets while most of the smartphone growth was in Russia and China. Many other markets have stalled in smartphone growth.

Gartner says the slowdown of smartphone growth in markets such as the United States and Western Europe was due to consumers waiting for flagship devices to be released, such as the newest iPhone, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and the HTC Rezound. Nokia is still No. 1 in the world in overall sales while another study shows that the best selling single devices in the U.S. are Apple's variety of iPhones.

iPhone Tops U.S. Wishlist

A study done by The NPD Group released yesterday showed that the U.S. market favors older devices that have fallen in price. The best selling smartphones in Q3 2011 in the U.S. were, in order: iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, HTC Evo 4G, Motorola Droid 3, Samsung Intensity II.

This matches well with the global Gartner numbers. Three out of the five phones on that list are Android. Overall, Android crushed the rest of the market in sales to end users, with 52.5% of all smartphones sold in Q3. Apple sales fell to 17.295 million, well of projections but most people that wanted to upgrade to a new iPhone were waiting for the supposed iPhone 5 before the iPhone 4S was announced. As we reported in October, 4S sales are breaking Apple's records so watch out for a big jump by Apple in Q4 results.

Apple may jump a lot more than even the analysts think when the Q4 numbers come out. Android has beaten Apple across the world by having devices on the shelves of every carrier across the world at price levels and styles that appeal to just about everyone. Apple's iPhone line has now reached a critical mass where it can do the same thing with the 3GS now free under a two-year contract, the iPhone 4 at $99 and the 4S at $199. Add an extra carrier to the U.S. mix for the 4S and, finally, Apple has a channel strategy that can compete with Android. Consumer probably would have preferred to new phones (say, a 4S and a 5), but ultimately they are not that picky and will just grab whatever iPhone fits their price structure.

Nokia Retains Spot, Holds Off Samsung... For Now

Nokia held the top spot among global OEMs at 23.9% of the market, ahead of Samsung at 17.8%. Nokia's top spot is still based on its line of feature phones in emerging markets. Symbian, its sort-of smart platform, has fallen precipitously in the last year with nearly 10 million less sales than the same quarter in 2010. See the chart below.

Samsung is the top smartphone vendor in the world with 24 million devices sold, thanks mostly to the Galaxy series. Samsung overtakes Nokia for the first time in smartphone sales though, as we have noted with the Windows Phone 7 coming to the U.S., Nokia has some ideas up its sleeves as well.

So, what do users want? They want smartphones at good prices available where they are. That is what Android has shown us and what Apple will see the benefits of later this year.

Why did you buy your smartphone? Did you want the operating system, like iPhone or Android? Or did price push your decision? Availability? Let us know in the comments.