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NEW YORK - Sales of "smart" phones doubled in North America in the first quarter, outstripping the category's growth in the rest of the world, according to a report by research firm Gartner.

North American growth was propelled by the popularity of Research in Motion Ltd.'s BlackBerry phones and Apple Inc.'s iPhone, and bodes well for the rumored introduction of second-generation iPhone next week.

Apple sold 1.73 million iPhones in the first three months of the year, taking a 5.3 percent share of the worldwide smart-phone market. The iPhone was launched in the U.S. last June, and overseas markets have been added gradually. The phone is still not available in most European countries, or in Japan or China.

Smart-phone sales in North America were 7.3 million units, up 106 percent from the first quarter of last year. RIM, with a U.S. market share of 42 percent, was the main beneficiary.

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