Blackberry maker Research in Motion broke into the top five cellphone makers in January-March for the first time, helped by 50 percent growth in the global smartphone market. The global handset market has been dominated by five major players -- Nokia , Samsung <005930.KS>, LG Electronics <066570.KS>, Motorola and Sony Ericsson <6758.T> -- for the last five years.

But over the last two years Sony Ericsson and Motorola have struggled with falling sales and market share, and despite fast market growth, both firms reported sharp drops in sales volumes for January-March.

Smartphone shipments surged 50 percent in the quarter from a year ago to 54 million with Apple and Nokia taking market share, researcher Strategy Analytics said.

Both Strategy Analytics and International Data Corporation (IDC) estimated Research in Motion shipped 10.6 million phones in January-March, just ahead of Sony Ericsson's 10.5 million.

The entrance of RIM into the top 5 underscores the sustained smartphone growth trend that is driving the global mobile phone market recovery, said IDC analyst Kevin Restivo.

IDC said all vendors in total made 295 million cellphones in the quarter, up 21.7 percent from a year ago, and stuck to its 11 percent market growth forecast for 2010.

Motorola, which was the second largest phone maker just six years ago, sold 8.5 million phones in the quarter, falling behind Apple , which sold 8.75 million iPhones.

Nokia shipped 107.8 million phones in the quarter, with Korean vendors Samsung and LG selling 64.3 million and 27.1 million respectively.

(Additional reporting by Brett Young; Editing by David Cowell)