Has Samsung beaten Apple and Nokia in smartphone sales?

By any standards, the growth of Samsung’s presence in the smartphone arena has been quite remarkable, fuelled considerably by its expansive range of Android handsets. Such has been the demand for these devices that it now appears the South Korean giant may be poised to announce that it’s not only beaten Nokia in smartphone sales over the last quarter, but also sales of Apple’s iPhone 4.

The official numbers haven’t yet been announced by the company, but Bloomberg cites figures from US research outfit Strategy Analytics, who believes that Samsung’s smartphone sales from April to June totaled between 18 and 21 million units. This may seem like a wide margin for error, but considering that Nokia sold 16.7 million smartphones over the same period, with Apple selling 20.3m iPhones, it brings into play the tantalizing possibility that Samsung may well have outsold them both.

Samsung has previously signaled its intentions to more than double sales of high-end devices in 2011, and with the company’s vast range of Galaxy handsets filling just about every niche, and selling well in most markets, it seems to be on track to meet its target. Neil Mawston, from Strategy Analytics, explained that the company “stands a reasonable chance of capturing the top spot on a quarterly basis if it can continue expanding its Android portfolio across high-growth markets like China and Brazil.”

A cornerstone of Samsung’s recent explosive expansion has been the well-received Galaxy S II, which generated an impressive three million sales in under two months, reportedly enabling Samsung to more than double operating profit in its mobile handset division. The S II is expected to launch in the US within a matter of weeks, one of the latest new markets for the handset in a rollout extending to 140 operators in 120 countries.  

Like Nokia, Samsung also makes feature phones (or “dumb phones”), and when estimates for these handsets are included, it is expected to hold 20% global market share this year, versus a 26% share for Nokia. Evidently unsatisfied with these figures, Samsung plans further aggressive expansion at the lower-end of the market through new cheaper handsets based on its own Bada operating system.

The figures discussed here – while currently unconfirmed – still reflect a trend that must concern Nokia, which is still working on its first Windows Phone handset, after announcing plans to abandon its own in-house smartphone platforms earlier this year. The rate of growth for both Samsung’s hardware and Google’s Android operating system will surely represent a further challenge for Nokia’s efforts to reassert itself in the smartphone space.  

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