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Samsung overtakes Apple in battle of the smartphones

Its market share has doubled, but the new iPhone may mean this supremacy is short-lived
  • @MrNickClark

The popularity of Samsung's smartphones has hit new heights after research showed it had overtaken sales of the iPhone in the three months to September, yet analysts predicted its joy could be short lived.

Strategy Analytics released data yesterday that showed 27.8 million Samsung handsets were shipped to retailers, equal to a 23.8 per cent market share. It has more than doubled its share since the same time last year. Samsung declined to comment.

Francisco Jeronimo, the research manager for European Mobile Devices for IDC, said: "To rise to the top from where it was a year ago is impressive. It shows the company has focused on the smartphone business and really addressed consumer needs."

The company really made an impact on the market with the launch of the Samsung Galaxy SII, according to Mr Jeronimo. "The SII was a game changer. This was the first phone that could really challenge the iPhone. Customers appreciated they could get a similar phone at a lower price," he said.

The SII was launched across Europe and Asia in May, and hit the shelves in the US last month. JK Shin, the head of the group's mobile communications business, revealed this month that the company had sold 30 million Galaxy S and SII handsets. Samsung now sells the most Android smartphones.

He added that the strength of Samsung's portfolio, with a range of phones at different prices, was crucial for its sales: "Samsung knew it had to provide handsets for everyone. The entire portfolio makes the difference."

This outstripped the report's estimations for Apple which shipped about 17.1 million devices, a share of 14.6 per cent, as demand dropped for the iPhone 4 in anticipation of the launch of the iPhone 4S.

Yet, Samsung's position is likely to come under threat immediately following the launch of the iPhone 4S. Apple said it had sold 4million just three days after launch, and the clamour for the devices could well see it reclaim top spot. Mr Jeronimo said: "The first day of sales was beyond all expectations. The 4S will continue to sell well and the iPhone 4 will do excellent volume." He added that Apple would almost certainly have the most devices shipped in the fourth quarter.

Over the summer, Apple had taken the top spot with 18.5 per cent of phones shipped to retailers ahead of Samsung which had 17.5 per cent. The number of smartphones shipped hit 117 million in the third quarter, 44 per cent higher than a year earlier.

Samsung revealed yesterday that the Galaxy Nexus, the first phone to run Google's new Ice Cream Sandwich software, will be available in Europe on 17 November. The price without a subsidy is expected to be around £550.

The battle for supremacy in smartphones is not only being played out in the stores, but between the companies. Apple and Samsung are locked in legal tussles across the globe.