Analyst: Samsung expected to widen smartphone lead over Apple in 2013

Samsung Electronics is likely going to expand its lead over Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) in the global smartphone market this year, according to research firm Strategy Analytics.

Samsung was the world's largest smartphone vendor 2012 largely on the strength of its Galaxy line of Android smartphones, and in particular its flagship Galaxy S III. Though Apple may have won back the top spot in the fourth quarter due to expected blockbuster sales of its iPhone 5, Samsung certainly will retain the crown for all of 2012.

In 2013, that lead will widen, Strategy Analytics said. "We expect Samsung to slightly extend its lead over Apple this year because of its larger multitier product portfolio," Strategy Analytics analyst Neil Mawston told Reuters.

The research firm expects global smartphone shipments to climb 27 percent to 875 million units this year, down from 41 percent growth in 2012, as developed markets and China see slower growth. The analyst firm thinks Samsung will ship 290 million smartphones this year, up 35 percent from a projected 215 million in 2012. Meanwhile, Strategy Analytics forecasts Apple's smartphone sales to reach 180 million this year, up 33 percent from 2012.

If those figures pan out, Strategy Analytics expects Samsung to capture 33 percent of the 2013 global smartphone market, up from last year's estimated 31 percent, while Apple will grab 21 percent, up marginally from last year's 20 percent.

In the race between the two firms, Samsung benefits from being able to approach the low-, mid- and high-end segments of the market. Although Apple does this by cutting the price of its older models as it introduces new iPhones, Samsung has a much broader portfolio and thus has bigger shipment numbers. Some analysts think Apple will introduce a cheaper "iPhone Mini" this year to go after cost-conscious consumers, though many others doubt that. In the United States, for example, prepaid carriers like Sprint Nextel's (NYSE:S) Virgin Mobile brand and Cricket provider Leap Wireless (NASDAQ:LEAP) offer unsubsidized versions of the iPhone paired with cheaper rate plans.

"We think Apple will have to launch an 'iPhone Mini' at some point over the next three years to address the hundreds of millions of prepaid users worldwide that cannot afford the current iPhone," Mawston said. "The iPhone 5 is growing fast and profitably right now, so there is little incentive for Apple to launch an 'iPhone Mini' this year."

For more:
- see this Reuters article
- see this TechCrunch article

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