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Samsung Takes Smartphone Market Lead from Apple in Q3, Setting up Battle for Top Spot in Q4

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Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. in the third quarter managed to take the No. 1 position in the global smartphone market for the first time ever, setting the stage for a close battle with Apple Inc. for market leadership in the fourth quarter, according to IHS iSuppli Mobile & Wireless Communications research from information and analysis provider IHS (NYSE: IHS).

Samsung in the third quarter shipped an estimated 27.30 million smartphones, up 43.7 percent from 19.0 million in the second quarter. Meanwhile, Apple’s shipments declined to 17.1 million iPhones, down 15.9 percent from 20.3 million in the second quarter.

Samsung’s share of the market in the third quarter rose to 23.2 percent, up from 17.5 percent in the second quarter. This helped give Samsung the No. 1 rank, up from No. 2 in the second quarter, as presented in the table below.

Smartphone Ranking

Meanwhile, Apple’s share declined to 14.6 percent, down from 18.7 percent in the second quarter. This caused the company to fall to second place, relinquishing the No. 1 ranking it attained for the first time in the second quarter.

“Samsung has been coming on strong in the global smartphone market in 2011 because of its broad portfolio of products, especially at the high end with its new Galaxy S II line as well as its offerings in the fast-growing low-end segment of the market,” said Wayne Lam, senior analyst, wireless communications at IHS. “Meanwhile, Apple suffered a sales decline in the third quarter as buyers delayed purchasing iPhones until the new 4S model became available in the fourth quarter. With the iPhone 4S now shipping in high volume, Apple is enjoying a sales spike in the fourth quarter that is expected to put it in a neck-and-neck battle for smartphone leadership with Samsung.”

Smart Growth for Apple
Apple’s third-quarter shipment decline spurred pessimism among some observers about the company’s smartphone sales outlook for the year. However, IHS ibelieves there is no cause for gloom regarding Apple’s iPhone sales expectations in 2011.

“The third-quarter decline in iPhone shipments follows a normal pattern for Apple, wherein its results were depressed during the period immediately preceding the release of a new model,” Lam said. “This weakness is always followed by a major surge, as consumers scoop up the latest the model. Apple’s shipment pattern is strongly evident in the fourth quarter, with the company selling a phenomenal 4 million iPhone 4S smartphones during their first weekend of availability.”

iPhone shipments across all models are expected to swell to about 30 million units in the fourth quarter, up a stunning 75 percent from the third quarter. For the entire year, Apple is on track to ship more than 85 million iPhones, up 80 percent from 47.5 million in 2010, according to a newly revised forecast.

Nokia Stops its Sales Slide—But at a Price
In other smartphone developments, former market leader Nokia in the third quarter managed to increase its shipments, marking the company’s first sequential quarterly growth in 2011.

Nokia shipped 16.8 million smartphones in the third quarter, up 0.6 percent from 16.7 million in the second quarter. This allowed the company to hold onto its third-place ranking, despite a strong increase from No. 4 competitor HTC.

“Nokia may have stopped its market-share decline—but this came at the sacrifice of its pricing,” Lam noted. “The average selling price of the company’s smartphones declined 7.8 percent sequentially in the third quarter, taking a toll on profitability.”

Conditions are likely to improve for Nokia in the fourth quarter, as it starts to ship its new line of smartphones based on Microsoft Corp.’s new Windows Phone 7.5 operating system. Nokia has bet heavily on Windows Phone, stating it has shifted development efforts away from its traditional Symbian-based devices and toward phones using the Microsoft operating system.

Android’s Steady Growth Driven by Samsung and HTC
Google’s Android continued its steady smartphone market share advance in the third quarter, with the two leading purveyors of the operating system, Samsung and HTC, posting strongest growth among the world’s Top 5 brands. HTC achieved the biggest rise, with its shipments expanding by 10 percent, while Samsung’s 5 percent advance gave it the second-highest increase.

The recent rollout of the latest version of the operating system, Android 4.0—or Ice Cream Sandwich—is likely to keep the Google software solution competitive in the smartphone market in the fourth quarter and beyond.

On the other hand, Google’s acquisition of Motorola Mobility may present some new problems for the Android operating system in the smartphone market. Other Android licensees might have concerns about Motorola potentially getting preferential treatment when it comes to Google support as well as obtaining favored access to new operating system revisions and features. In turn, this could cause Android licensees to shift some of their development efforts to other operating systems, potentially impacting Android’s market advance.

Read More > Smartphones and 4G, Changing the Mobile Industry

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