CNN Money/Fortune reports that after a brief slump, Apple is once again the world’s number one choice in smartphones. Thirty seven million iPhones were sold last quarter — not a bad position to be in as mobile takes more and more of the Internet’s center stage away from the laptop and desktop.

InformationWeek brings us the numbers:

For the period ending Dec. 31, Apple shipped 37 million phones, more than doubling its sales from the same period a year ago. The Cupertino-based company’s market share came in at 23.5%, up from 15.9% in the previous fourth quarter, according to market watcher IDC.

Analysts at the firm said that despite some shortcomings, the launch of iPhone 4S last October was the main reason behind Apple’s surge.

According to the IDC release, this has created a new record for the industry as a whole, not just Apple:

Apple climbed back into the market leadership position with the launch of its iPhone 4S worldwide, and in the process it reached a new shipment volume record for itself and for the entire industry for a single quarter.

That’s right, a record for the entire market. As an iPhone user, I can obviously see how the device can seem attractive on many levels. That is something that Mac has always been good at — being more of a lifestyle machine than just a computer device. Most Mac users seem almost evangelical about their choice of hardware (I use both PC and Mac regularly and prefer each for different things), it’s a well known fact, often lampooned online.

The reason I bring up the fierce attachment users of Mac devices have to their gear is because it throws into sharp relief the quandary they face as this single most popular smartphone is said to be built in unsafe working conditions overseas.

After an explosion in a Chengdu plant killed two and injured dozens, there was a seven-month lull before Apple’s manufacturing chain had another major explosion. Like the Chengdu blast, this one was caused by aluminum dust in the air, but this time, 59 workers were injured, 23 to point of needing hospitalization.

These instances spurred The New York Times to produce an extensive report on the conditions in overseas factories that manufacture Apple’s devices. I highly advise reading it as it presents an amazing array of information. Infractions ranging from underaged employees and massive amounts of overtime to the use of toxic chemicals without protection and much more are recounted, and the stories have spurred some significant public outcry.

Erica Ogg at GigaOm reports:

Representatives from and will deliver petitions to Apple stores in several major cities with the names of 250,000 people who want the iPhone maker to develop ‘a worker protection strategy’ covering the people who build its devices in China.

The groups say they will deliver the petitions in person in Washington, D.C., New York City, San Fransisco, London, Sydney and Bangalore and will carry signs and leaflets.

The SumOfUs petition has more than 56,000 electronic signatures so far. According to the grassroots group, more than 35,000 of those signatures belong to people who say they are current Apple customers — 20,000 of them are said to be iPhone owners. The number includes Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, SumOfUs’ executive director, who says she love her iPhone but doesn’t ‘love having to support sweatshops.’

Americans love their iPhones. As a matter of fact, people everywhere love their iPhones, or the company wouldn’t have the record-breaking sales numbers. The problem is stated in a succinct fashion by one of the nameless Apple execs interviewed in The New York Times piece:

‘You can either manufacture in comfortable, worker-friendly factories, or you can reinvent the product every year, and make it better and faster and cheaper, which requires factories that seem harsh by American standards,’ said a current Apple executive.

‘And right now, customers care more about a new iPhone than working conditions in China.’

Only time will tell if that will change. What do you think?

Image: “IDC Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, February 6, 2012.” Author: IDC charts powered by iCharts.

WordPress Image Lightbox