Apple Inches Past Samsung to Retake No. 1 Global Smartphone Maker

Apple Inches Past Samsung to Retake No. 1 Global Smartphone Maker

Although Apple sells millions of iPhones, 500,000 of the smartphones spell the difference between being No. 1 and runner-up in the race against South Korean rival Samsung. New numbers reveal the Cupertino, Calif. tech giant retook by a nose the crown of top smartphone maker in the world.

Apple resumes a lead in smartphone shipments lost after the second quarter of 2011. At that time, Apple surpassed Nokia and held Samsung at bay, according to the research firm. The No. 1 position was lost following a dip in iPhone sales due to the delayed entry of the iPhone 4S. Reinvigorated sales due to the iPhone 4S is now seen as the main reason for Apple’s climb back to the top position.

According to Strategy Analytics, Apple shipped 37 million iPhones in the fourth quarter of 2011, just ahead of Samsung’s 36.5 million. The three-month period ended Dec. 31, 2011. “While Apple took the top spot in smartphones on a quarterly basis, Samsung became the market leader in annual terms for the first time with 20 percent global share during 2011,” Executive Director Neil Mawston said.

Indeed, Samsung shipped 97.4 million smartphones for all of 2011, compared to Apple’s 93 million iPhones. Last year saw the South Korean Galaxy maker end on a much higher note than 2010. In 2010, Samsung shipped 23.9 million smartphones, around half of Apple’s 47.5 million the same year. However, between 2010 and 2011, overall smartphone unit shipments rose dramatically from 299.5 million handsets in 2010 to 488.5 million in 2010.

“With global smartphone shipments nearing half a billion units in 2011, Samsung is now well positioned alongside Apple in a two-horse race at the forefront of one of the world’s largest and most valuable consumer electronics markets,” Mawston said.

Samsung’s smartphone sales figures are not as certain as previously. After Samsung in 2010 stopped releasing mobile device sales numbers due to competitive pressure (i.e. Apple), Strategy Analytics and other market researchers have had to base estimates on data such as the company’s financial records.

Apple closed 2011 just .4 percent off Samsung’s marketshare lead. According to Strategy Analytics, Samsung holds 23.5 percent of the global smartphone market versus Apple’s 23.9 percent.

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  • nolavabo

    By 2014 the Android army will be composed of rank after rank of Amazon Kindles on the left and Samsung Galaxies on the right. The much-vaunted diversity will have dwindled down to these two strongest contenders. So much for choice.

  • kyle_gibson

    This is what apple fans tell themselves at night so they can go to sleep soundly.

About the author

Ed SutherlandEd Sutherland is a veteran technology journalist who first heard of Apple when they grew on trees, Yahoo was run out of a Stanford dorm and Google was an unknown upstart. Since then, Sutherland has covered the whole technology landscape, concentrating on tracking the trends and figuring out the finances of large (and small) technology companies.

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