Apple won the smartphone wars last quarter, but Samsung was close behind in second place, according to Juniper Research.
Though Samsung lost its top perch, the Korean handset maker still managed to carve out a 21.7 percent share thanks to healthy demand for its Galaxy smartphone lineup.
Samsung's market share has jumped from 4.7 percent in the first quarter of 2010 to almost 22 percent, forcing Apple to now fight to stay ahead.
Though Apple sold 4 million units of the latest iPhone within the first three days alone, the company managed to top its closest rival last quarter by also offering older iPhone models at low prices, says Juniper. Such a move is part of Apple's strategy to combat the standard and premium smartphones sold by Samsung.
"The scale of Samsung's product range is saturating the market," Juniper analyst Daniel Ashdown said in a statement. "Apple has had to counter Samsung's products like the Galaxy Ace in order to maintain the visibility of its brand."
Other research reports have also pointed to a surge for Apple during the holiday quarter.
Strategy Analytics pegged Apple's share of the smartphone market at 23.9 percent last quarter, narrowly outpacing Samsung at 23.5 percent. But for 2011 as a whole, Samsung captured the larger share of shipments.
Apple has also just begun to keep pace with the huge demand for its latest iPhone. A glance at the Apple Store's sales page for the iPhone 4S now reveals it as being in stock, a change from early January when the wait time was still three to five days.
Looking at the rest of the industry, HTC was the only other manufacturer in the top five to see a jump in sales from a year ago, shipping an estimated 12.1 million smartphones last quarter. RIM's BlackBerry shipments remained steady at 14.4 million, down less than a percentage point from last year.
And Nokia is anxiously awaiting renewed demand for its handsets courtesy of Microsoft's Windows Phone. Nokia's smartphone shipments fell 31 percent last quarter from a year ago, noted Juniper.
Overall, the industry shipped 149 million smartphones in the fourth quarter and 470 million for 2011 as a whole.