Global smartphone shipments rose 30 percent year-over-year to reach a record 53 million units in Q4 2009, according to figures released today by Strategy Analytics. The research firm said that the numbers represented the strongest quarter of growth for over a year (since 3Q08) and was further proof that smartphones are leading the handset industry out of recession. Unit shipments for the full year (2009) reached 173.8 million, up from 151.1 million in 2008. However, Strategy Analytics’ Neil Mawston warned that the smartphone market will become “ultra competitive” in 2010. “The smartphone wars will be good news for consumers, but the fierce competition will inevitably place downward pressure on vendors’ pricing and margins,” he said. “Samsung and LG have ambitious plans to grow volumes and expand their app stores, while emerging players like Dell and Huawei are strengthening their device portfolios and courting major operators.” Strategy Analytics said last week that the total handset market grew by about 10 percent in the quarter

The quarter was a good one for Nokia, which shipped a record 20.8 million smartphones worldwide, a rise of 38 percent from 15.1 million units a year earlier. It was Nokia’s strongest smartphone quarter since the first half of 2008. Among the other vendors, BlackBerry-maker RIM shipped a record 10.7 million smartphones, remaining comfortably ahead of Apple’s 8.7 million units during the quarter. RIM continues to expand its international footprint beyond the core territory of North America, deeper into Western Europe and parts of Asia.