Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) just became the most valuable public company in the world by declining less than Exxon Mobil (NYSE:XOM), the previous leader, in Wednesday’s brutal session that saw the S&P 500 plunge 4.42 percent.   

Apple is now worth $337.17 billion and Exxon is second at $330.77 billion.

In 2005, Exxon passed General Electric (NYSE:GE) for the top spot on the back of rising global demand for oil.  In the post-financial crisis world, emerging market urbanization and industrialization is still fueling the oil glut.

However, the hunger for Apple products, both in the developed and developing world, is arguably more insatiable.

Apple’s phenomenal growth is powered by the wild success of its iPhone, iPad, iPod, and other signature products.

For the second quarter of 2011, Apple shipped 20.3 million units of smartphones globally, or 18 percent of the total market share, according to Strategy Analytics.

Strategy Analytics also pointed out the strong performance of Apple smartphones in Asia and especially China, which is a growth market that will likely become increasingly important in the future.

A separated report from International Data Corporation (IDC) stated that "Apple thrived in China thanks to strong iPhone 4 demand."

A recent report from Nielsen showed that the iPhone is the most popular U.S. smartphone and the iOS is the second most popular U.S. smartphone OS after Google's Android.

The love of Apple products goes beyond numbers and statistics.  Anecdotal stories of fans waiting overnight in lines and spending all their savings on iPhones are common.

The most extreme "Apple fanboyism" stories, however, arguably come from China.  For example, one Chinese teenager recently sold his kidney to buy an iPad and iPhone, reported Reuters.