Samsung dominates, Apple stalls in Q2 global smartphone shipments

A Samsung Galaxy S4, right, with the older Galaxy S3 behind it.

The second quarter of 2013 brought more good news for Samsung but less so for Apple, at least as far as smartphone sales go. But the year isn't over yet — in fact, the toughest fight is yet to come.

Tracking firm IDC's numbers on global smartphone shipments for April through June show huge growth: about 238 million units were shipped, an increase of more than 50 percent over the same period last year.

Samsung continues its domination, shipping about 72 million devices, many of those from its flagship Galaxy S line of phones. The series has sold in record numbers around the world, owing to a huge list of futuristic features and top-of-the-line hardware. That said, Juniper Research reports that demand for the highest-end phones has slackened as budget buyers make the switch to Android and go for more inexpensive handsets.

Apple, despite selling 20 percent more iPhones this quarter (about 31 million) than in 2012's Q2, actually sold fewer of them than it did in the first three months of this year. This had the effect of making the company's share of the smartphone market drop, from 18 percent in March to 14 percent now.

Juniper Research suggests this is because Apple issued a rare confirmation that it is announcing "amazing new products" this fall, among which is likely to be a new iPhone and potentially a wearable "iWatch" device.

Motorola, which hasn't figured in smartphone sales essentially since its 2011 merger with Google, is also preparing for what may be its biggest launch ever: the assembled-in-the-U.S. Moto X. The much-leaked mid-range Android phone is widely expected to move quite a few units.

So while Samsung and a few others have their big products for the year already in the wild, Apple and Motorola are just getting started, especially as they gear up for the all-important holiday season.

The smaller (and once mighty) phone makers have had mixed success: Nokia posted moderate growth, though it, too, has big plans for later this year. LG, Lenovo, ZTE, and other Asian manufacturers have seen their modest numbers go up, but they're still bit players. And BlackBerry (as it is now known, rather than Research In Motion) appears to have disappointed again, despite its BB10 devices receiving a warm critical welcome.

We'll keep an eye on the news and numbers; the real battle for dominance will be at the end of 2013, not the beginning.

Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer for NBC News Digital. His personal website is