Taiwan smartphone maker HTC Corp said first-quarter profit almost tripled, beating forecasts, driven by strong demand for its handsets, particularly those running on the Android operating system

The company, which has just overtaken erstwhile industry giant Nokia Oyj in terms of market capitalization, said on Friday that unaudited first-quarter net profit was T$14.83 billion ($511 million). Analysts had forecast a profit of T$12.99 billion.

That its first quarter would be above expectations was well foreseen, Q1 seasonality was better than expected, said Bonnie Chang, an analyst at Yuanta Securities in Hong Kong.

For the second quarter everyone is expecting revenue sequential growth in the high teens to 20 percent, shipments will be strong and average selling prices are holding up pretty well.

Growing demand for phones running on Google's Android platform will help the smartphone market grow in 2011, boosting companies such as HTC and Samsung Electronics who are betting on the platform.

The smartphone market is likely to grow 58 percent this year and 35 percent the next, according to research firm Gartner.

Android's popularity has helped Asian manufacturers to rise fast in smartphone rankings. HTC's market capitalization topped that of Nokia earlier in the week after a 29 percent surge in its share price so far this year.

The shares touched a high of T$1,220 on April 7 this year, more than triple the T$360.5 on April 6, 2010. That surge has helped turn its chairwoman, Cher Wang, into Taiwan's richest person.

On Friday, the shares closed down 3.3 percent at T$1,160 versus the benchmark index's 0.08 percent fall.

Yuanta's Chang said she expected to raise her price target for the shares to around T$1,300 to T$1,400, where she expected most other broker targets to be.

HTC said consolidated sales for March reached T$37 billion, more than double the same month a year earlier. First-quarter revenues reached T$104.2 billion. The company did not elaborate in its statement.

It has said at the beginning of the year that it expected revenue and shipments would be more than double in the first quarter this year, helped by a new generation of products.

(Reporting by Argin Chang and Jonathan Standing; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)