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(Pocket-lint) - It took a while for Apple to jump aboard the big phone bandwagon but it's final acceptance that people want larger screen sizes seems to have paid off. According to figures released by industry analyst Gartner, the company's market share is just 1 per cent behind Nokia/Microsoft, even though the sales statistics include feature phones and budget devices as well as smartphones.

That's a quite remarkable figure considering Apple only releases two new phones a year - with the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 and 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus being this year's models. The figures also suggest that the feature phone market is in freefall, with cheap, readily-available smartphone devices taking over in developing countries.

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Gartner claims that Apple sold 38.186 million handsets in the third quarter of this year, while Microsoft (under the Nokia brand) sold 43.134 million. That's 20 million less than the Nokia devices division sold in the equivalent period in 2013 and you can look to the decline in feature phones for that shortfall.

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Apple however sold almost eight million more iPhones year-on-year, leaving it with an 8.4 per cent market share across all mobile phones. Microsoft's is now just 9.5 per cent. Samsung, of course, still rules the roost with a mighty 20.6 per cent market share.

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In terms of smartphone sales alone, Apple has further cemented its place as number two behind Samsung. Closest rival is Huawei in third, while another Chinese brand Xiaomi has had the biggest climb to fourth, selling 12 million more handsets than it did in the same quarter in 2013.

READ: Apple iPhone 6 Plus review

Gartner also predicts that Apple will have the largest fourth quarter sales in the history of the iPhone. Let's see where that puts it in the next statistics release. One thing's for sure; people sure love a big phone.

Writing by Rik Henderson.