Jumping past Apple, Samsung has become the new world leader in the smartphone arena, according to data released yesterday by IDC.
Among all smartphone manufacturers, Samsung earned the top spot with a record 23.6 million shipments for the third quarter, surpassing the 20 million mark for the first time in its history and showing a huge gain from the 7.3 million units shipped a year ago.
Record shipments helped Samsung score a global smartphone market share of 20 percent, a leap from just 8.8 percent in last year's third quarter. Samsung's strong lineup of Android phones drove overall demand, IDC, said, though the company's Bada-powered smartphones also gained traction.
"Samsung's ascendancy to the leadership position is the direct result of its broad and deep product portfolio," Ramon Llamas, senior research analyst with IDC's Mobile Phone Technology and Trends team, said in a statement. "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."
Apple slipped to second place with third-quarter iPhone shipments of 17.1 percent and a market share of 14.5 percent. Though shipments rose from 14.1 million a year ago, the company's slice of the market dropped from 17 percent.
Research firm Strategy Analytics also recently released data showing that Samsung outpaced Apple in third-quarter smartphone shipments.
Revealing its fiscal fourth-quarter (calendar year third-quarter) results last month, Apple said it sold 17 million iPhones over the three months ended September. That number proved 21 percent higher than a year ago but lower than the previous quarter's 20 million units.
Most analysts blamed the shortfall on customers delaying purchases in anticipation of the new iPhone, a sign to IDC that Apple may be able to to knock Samsung off its perch.
"Even after relying on the iPhone 4 for five quarters and the iPhone 3GS for nine, demand for the iPhone remained strong enough for Apple to realize double-digit growth year over year," IDC noted. "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."
Shipping 16.8 million phones for the quarter, Nokia stayed in third place around the globe thanks to continued demand for its Symbian phones. The company also unveiled four phones based on its Symbian Belle OS. Moving forward, Nokia is expected to shake up the market as it starts to transition to handsets running Microsoft's Windows Phone.
But both Apple and Nokia could confront Samsung for the top spot, says IDC.
"Samsung's position will be a challenge to maintain, both in the fourth quarter and beyond," Llamas said. "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 smartphones 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."
Overall, the global smartphone market climbed 42.6 percent over last year's third quarter, IDC noted, even though demand slowed in certain key markets. The growth rate was lower than IDC's forecast of 49.1 percent and failed to reach the second-quarter gains of 66.7 percent.
Despite some market sluggishness, smartphone vendors still shipped a total of 118.1 million units, a healthy rise from the 82.8 million shipped a year ago.