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Samsung Pushes Apple Out of Top Smart Phone Slot

Samsung moved to the top position among smart phone manufacturers worldwide in the third quarter, bumping Apple, Nokia, and Research in Motion out of the way in the process.

According to new data published by market research firm IDC, Samsung's smart phone shipments increased 223.3 percent from Q3 2010, rising to 23.6 million units and accounting for 20 percent of the overall market. At this time last year, the company commanded only 8.8 percent of the market on shipments of 7.3 million units.

Samsung's rise in the smart phone market was driven by sales of its Android- and bada-based devices, according to IDC.

"Samsung's ascendancy to the leadership position is the direct result of its broad and deep product portfolio," said Ramon Llamas, senior research analyst with IDC's Mobile Phone Technology and Trends group, in a statement released Monday. "Ever since the first Galaxy device launched last year, the company has aggressively expanded and refreshed its selection to include the latest innovations and most popular features. At the same time, its line-up of bada-branded smart phones has earned a welcome reception within key markets."

However, Llamas noted, Samsung's leadership position "will be a challenge to maintain, both in the fourth quarter and beyond. Apple's fourth quarter launch of the iPhone 4S and lower pricing of older models will certainly boost volumes, and Nokia's recent launch of Windows Phone smart phones marks the beginning of a new era for the company. While these point to larger volumes in the quarters to come, they will also lead to increased competition."

Q3 was the first quarter in which Samsung had ever surpassed the 20 million smart phone unit sales mark, according to IDC.

Meanwhile, Apple, while losing a small market share percentage, actually increased unit shipments 21.3 percent in the quarter. The iPhone maker shipped 17.1 million units worldwide during the quarter compared with 14.1 million in Q3 2010. Its market share was 14.5 percent in Q3 2011 versus 17 percent in Q3 2010.

"Apple, after taking the No. 1 spot last quarter from Nokia, slipped to the No. 2 spot worldwide," IDC reported. "But even after relying on the iPhone 4 for five quarters and the iPhone 3G S for nine, demand for the iPhone remained strong enough for Apple to realize double-digit growth year over year. Now that Apple has launched its iPhone 4S and re-priced its older models in multiple countries, Apple stands poised to challenge Samsung for the leadership position."

No. 3 Nokia continued to tumble during the quarter, shedding nearly 10 million units in worldwide sales and dropping to a market share of 14.2 percent compared with a share of 32 percent in the same quarter last year. Its units sales of 16.8 million, however, were still enough to keep it on Apple's heels.

High-end Android phone maker HTC, like Samsung, saw a triple-digit percentage increase in unit shipments worldwide. The company has sold only 5.9 million units in Q3 2010 but increased that figure 115.3 percent to 12.7 million units in Q3 2011, winding up in the No. 4 slot with a 10.8 percent market share.

"HTC moved up one spot and maintained its upward momentum during 3Q11," IDC reported. "During the quarter, HTC acquired several companies to complement its devices, including Dashwire for cloud-based sync, Zoodles for kid-oriented applications, and a stake in audio company Beats." The company also launched an entry-level Android phone during the quarter, as well as phone targeting specific demographics.

Like Nokia, BlackBerry maker Research in Motion declined in the third quarter of 2010, moving to the No. 5 slot overall. Total shipments for the quarter were off 4.8 percent compared with Q3 2010, from 12.4 million units to 11.8 million. Market share for the three-month period declined from 15 percent in 2010 to an even 10 percent in 2011.

All other smart phone vendors accounted for 36.1 million units, up from 16.6 million in the same quarter last year, accounting for the remaining 30.6 percent of the market. Total worldwide smart phone shipments for the quarter were 118.1 million, up 42.6 percent from 82.8 million units in the same quarter in 2010.

"Vendors will struggle to maintain leadership of the global smart phone market this year given its continued high growth, which opportunities for multiple companies to grow," said Kevin Restivo, senior research analyst with IDC's Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker, also in a prepared statement. "Competitors will release smart phones with components, such as 3D displays, dual-core processors, and enhanced audio capabilities, that will help them drive higher shipment volumes and potentially leapfrog competitors."

About the Author

David Nagel is the former editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal, STEAM Universe, and Spaces4Learning. A 30-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art, marketing, media, and business publications.

He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at .

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