Accounts for almost one-third of all mobile device sales.
The near half billion smartphone units sold in 2011, is up by 58 per cent from 2010, according to researcher Gartner.
Meanwhile, Q4 smartphone sales reached 149 million devices, which is a 47 per cent growth on Q4 2010.
As we reported, Apple became the top smartphone manufacturer in Q4 thanks to the iPhone 4S. However, it was Chinese low-end manufacturer ZTE that experienced the fastest growing adoption behind high-end Apple, shipping 18.9 million units to rise by 71 per cent on the previous year.
The boost for sales to ZTE and fellow China-based firm Huawei, came as they rolled out into new markets and improved their user experience.
Roberta Cozza, principal research analyst at Gartner, said: "Western Europe and North America led most of the smartphone growth for Apple during the fourth quarter of 2011. In Western Europe the spike in iPhone sales in the fourth quarter saved the overall smartphone market after two consecutive quarters of slow sales."
While the smartphone market experienced its best year so far, Gartner predicts it will slow, as clamour for the iPhone 4S dies down.