Analyst: Samsung's Galaxy S III overtakes iPhone 4S as top smartphone in Q3

Samsung Electronics' flagship smartphone model, the Galaxy S III, surpassed Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone 4S as the world's most popular smartphone by sales in the third quarter, according to research firm Strategy Analytics.

Apple, which has dominated the sales charts for the last two years since the arrival of the iPhone 4, slipped behind Samsung's model, according to the research firm. Samsung sold an estimated 18 million S III units in the quarter, surpassing an estimated 16.2 million iPhone 4S devices sold. However, Apple sold 6 million iPhone 5's in the quarter and Strategy Analytics said it expects the iPhone 5 will help Apple reclaim the crown as the top-selling smartphone during the fourth quarter.

"Samsung's Galaxy S III smartphone model shipped 18 million units worldwide during the third quarter of 2012," Strategy Analytics analyst Neil Shah said in a statement. "The Galaxy S III captured an impressive 11 percent share of all smartphones shipped globally and it has become the world's best-selling smartphone model for the first time ever. A large touchscreen design, extensive distribution across dozens of countries, and generous operator subsidies have been among the main causes of the Galaxy S III's success."

The S III made up 31.6 percent of the total 56.9 million smartphones the research firm estimated Samsung sold during the third quarter. Starting in the middle of last year Samsung stopped reporting how many handset and smartphone units it shipped, making it a quarterly parlor game to estimate how many units the company shipped and where it stands relative to its peers.

Samsung's smartphone sales, and sales of the S III in particular, have benefited from extremely wide carrier distribution (there are at least seven U.S. carriers already selling the S III, for example). That distribution, coupled with the device's high-end specifications, services and a relentless marketing campaign from Samsung, have combined to make the S III Samsung's fastest-selling smartphone yet.  

Samsung said earlier this week that it passed the milestone of 30 million unit sales of its Galaxy S III flagship smartphone, hitting the mark nine months faster than its predecessor, the S II. Samsung confirmed that the 30 million "sales" are shipments into sales channels and not necessarily sell-through numbers to end users. It took 14 months for Samsung to hit 30 million unit sales with the S II, which was introduced in 2011, and the mark came just weeks after Samsung announced that it had sold 20 million S III units in the device's first 100 days of availability.

For more:
- see this release
- see this Reuters article
- see this Engadget article

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