Samsung sold more smartphones than Apple in the third quarter of 2012, as consumers postponed purchases in anticipation of the iPhone 5, new research showed on Tuesday, while Nokia slipped down the rankings to be overtaken by Blackberry maker Research in Motion.
According to the latest report by technology research firm Gartner, smartphone sales surged 46.9 percent to 169.2 million units in the third quarter of 2012 from a year ago, with the market dominated by Apple (AAPL) and Samsung (:SMSN-LN), tech giants that have clashed repeatedly in recent months.
The report said that strong demand for Samsung's Galaxy smartphones enabled it to sell 55 million smartphones in the third quarter of 2012 and to command a 32.5 percent share of the global smartphone market in the third quarter of 2012. Meanwhile, Apple sold 23.6 million units in the third quarter of 2012, giving it a 14 percent market share.
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"Both vendors together controlled 46.5 percent of smartphone market leaving a handful of vendors fighting over a distant third spot," said Anshul Gupta, principal research analyst at Gartner.
"We saw inventory built up into the channel as Apple prepared for the coming holiday season, global expansions and the launch into China in the fourth quarter of 2012," Gupta added.
With the launch of the iPhone 5, Gartner analysts expect that Apple's mobile operating system iOS' share will grow strongly in the fourth quarter of 2012 because users delayed replacing their phones in many markets, ahead of the iPhone 5 roll out.
Nokia's share continued to shrink in the quarter, with the company selling 7.2 million smartphones for a market share of 4.2 percent. RIM (RIMM) sold 8.9 million smartphones in the same quarter for a share of 5.2 percent, knocking Nokia from the third spot despite a host of service outages from the Blackberry maker.
Finnish mobile maker Nokia (NOK) has struggled to keep up with its competitors, despite sales of its flagship smartphone the Lumia 900 totaling 4 million globally. To put the number into perspective, Apple sold 5 million iPhone 5 units in three days. Poor sales have seen Nokia slip to No. 7 in smartphone sales in the third quarter of 2012 with HTC in fourth place.
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Even though worldwide sales of mobile phones declined 3 percent to 428 million units in the third quarter of 2012, Gartner noted that there was positive news for the whole industry.
"After two consecutive quarters of decline in mobile phone sales, demand has improved in both mature and emerging markets as sales increased sequentially," it said.
"In China, sales of mobile phones grew driven by sales of smartphones, while demand of feature phones remained weak. In mature markets, we finally saw replacement sales pick up with the launch of new devices in the quarter."
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