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Report: Samsung new No. 1 smartphone vendor, over Apple

Strategy Analytics
Samsung Galaxy S IISamsung

In the third quarter of 2011, Samsung was the king of the smartphone world, with one report showing the domination of the manufacturer overtaking Apple's global reign.

While smartphone sales in the U.S. dipped for the first time during the same duration, the rest of the world was busy snapping up the devices. According to the latest research from Strategy Analytics, "Global smartphone shipments grew 44 percent annually to reach a record 117 million units in the third quarter of 2011. Samsung overtook Apple to claim top spot as the world’s number one smartphone vendor." The company shipped 28 million smartphones and gained 24 percent of the market.

Strategy Analytics

Alex Spektor, Senior Analyst at Strategy Analytics, explained Samsung's leapfrog:

Samsung’s rise has been driven by a blend of elegant hardware designs, popular Android services, memorable sub-brands and extensive global distribution. Samsung has demonstrated that it is possible, at least in the short term, to differentiate and grow by using the Android ecosystem.

When we got in touch with Spektor, he also said that Apple not releasing the iPhone 4S until after the third quarter had something to do with Samsung's ascension. But, the strong showing could also not be laid on the shoulders of the popular and highly anticipated Galaxy S II, which did not ship until after the third quarter was over.

Neil Mawston, Director at Strategy Analytics, added some more insights into the push-and-pull between Samsung and Apple:

After just one quarter in the top spot, Apple slipped behind Samsung to second position and captured 15 percent share. Apple’s global smartphone growth rate slowed to just 21 percent annually in Q3 2011, its lowest level for two years. We believe Apple’s growth during the third quarter was affected by consumers and operators awaiting the launch of the new iPhone 4S in the fourth quarter, volatile economic conditions in several key countries, and tougher competition from Samsung’s popular Galaxy S II model.

But wait, what about Nokia? Unfortunate naming snafu aside, will the new Windows-Phone-powered Lumia be a chance for the one-time phone superpower to recover?

For now, Nokia has continued to slide down the abyss, reaching only 14 percent of the global smartphone market share in the third quarter, from 33 percent a year earlier. But Tom Kang, Director at Strategy Analytics thinks there may be hope for it to bounce back: “The transition from Symbian to Microsoft as Nokia’s main smartphone platform has clearly been a very challenging process this year. The recent launch of the new Microsoft Lumia portfolio has helped to raise Nokia’s profile, and Nokia will be hoping the partnership with Microsoft can drive at least an L-shaped recovery in its global smartphone market share over the next few months.”

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