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Strong Galaxy S2 sales propel Samsung to lead smartphone spot

Samsung overtook Apple in smartphone shipments for the third quarter to become the world’s number one smartphone vendor, according to new data from Strategy Analytics.

The strong third-quarter performance saw the operating profit for Samsung’s handset division more than double from a year earlier to a record high of $2.3 billion, the company said in its third quarter financial results. Samsung shipped 28 million smartphones, with a 24 percent market share, per Strategy Analytics.

“Samsung’s growth was driven in large part by the strong sales of its Samsung Galaxy S2 superphone,” said Alex Spektor, senior analyst of global wireless practices at Strategy Analytics, Newton, MA.

“Consumers are attracted to its large screen, as devices with screens of size 4” or more can deliver a more engaging experience with apps, multimedia, and Internet content,” he said.

Nokia looses share
Samsung also put in a good quarter in terms of overall handset shipments, where it ranked second and reached an all-time high market share of 23 percent, according to Strategy Analytics.

Global smartphone shipments grew 44 percent during the third quarter of 2011 to reach a total of 117 million units, a record.

Samsung’s strength in the market was driven by hardware design and popular Android services in addition to the popularity of the Galaxy S2 phone.

Apple dropped behind Samsung after just one quarter as the leading smartphone vendor, delivering a 15 percent share for Q3. Apple shipped 17.1 million units in the quarter.

In addition to facing tougher competition from Samsung, 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 as well as volatile economic conditions in several countries.

Nokia’s 14 percent global smartphone share in the third quarter was more than half of its 33 percent share in same quarter a year ago. Nokia shipped 16.8 million units.

Nokia is transitioning from Symbian to Microsoft as its main smartphone platform and recently introduced its first new smartphones on the Windows Phone platform. This could help raise Nokia’s profile in the U.S.

Global handset shipments grew 14 percent in the third quarter to reach a total of 390 million units.

ZTE captured 5 percent market share and overtook Apple to become the world’s fourth largest handset vendor driven by competitive pricing of entry-level models for feature phones and Android smartphones. ZTE shipped 18.5 million units.

Apple slipped to fifth place in market share rankings with 17.1 million units shipped.

Nokia’s global handset shipments dropped 3 percent annually to 107 million units in the third quarter, making it the leading handset supplier worldwide. LG shipped just 21 million handsets worldwide.

Whether or not Samsung can maintain the top spot in the fourth quarter is not yet clear as there promises to be stiff year-end competition from several other players.

“The iPhone 4S has so far been a tremendously popular smartphone for Apple,” Mr. Spektor said. “Nokia has also revealed its Microsoft Lumia smartphones, which will be released in markets like Western Europe shortly.

“Consumers will have many choices for their holiday smartphone shopping,” he said.

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York