Research from Gartner indicates every fifth phone sold last quarter was a smartphone as the device's popularity continues to skyrocket.

Gartner, a technology research firm, posted its worldwide mobile phone sales numbers from the last quarter. Smartphone sales led the way as they increased 96 percent year-over-end from the third quarter in 2009. All told, smartphone sales represented 19.3 percent of overall mobile phone sales in the third quarter of 2010.

This quarter saw Apple and Android drive record smartphone sales. Apple's share of the smartphone market surpassed Research In Motion (RIM) in North America to put it second behind Android while Android volumes also grew rapidly making it the No. 2 operating system worldwide, Carolina Milanesi, analyst at Gartner, said in a statement.

Leading the way once again was Nokia which had market share of 28.2 percent. However, this was a sharp decline from the third quarter in 2009 when it had 36.7 percent. Samsung and LG were second and third respectively, but also had lost share. Apple was in fourth with 3.2 percent share, up from 2.3 percent a year ago.

Nokia's Symbian operating system led smartphone sales, but also declined from 44.6 percent share a year ago to 36.6 percent this past quarter. The growth of Android was most impressive as it went from a meager 3.5 percent share in the third quarter of 2009 to 25.5 percent this past quarter. Gartner estimated Android phones accounted for 75 percent to 80 percent of Verizon Wireless's smartphone trade this past quarter.

Apple's iOS operating system came in third at 16.7 percent and surpassed Research In Motion, which fell from 20.7 percent share to 14.8 percent share. Microsoft Windows Mobile and Linux also suffered a decline.

Gartner also pointed out the growth of white-box manufacturers, those who build their own device. These types of devices rose from 16.1 percent global share in the third quarter of 2009 to 33.0 percent share this past quarter.

In the third quarter, white-box manufacturers continued to expand their reach outside of China into markets such as India, Russia, Africa and Latin America. We firmly believe this phenomenon will not be short-lived as we still see a continued need for non-3G devices. Although we have seen acceleration in sales this quarter, we expect an even bigger volume in the fourth quarter of 2010, Milanesi said.

Gartner said the growth of tablets will challenge the smartphone market in 2011. The company predicts 54.8 million tablet computers units will ship in 2011.

To a developer, the iPod Touch and iPhone (and to a lesser extent the iPad) are effectively the same device and a single market opportunity, Milanesi said.