Samsung Wins World in Smartphone Sales, Still Trails Apple in U.S.

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Samsung may still be trailing Apple in U.S. smartphone sales, but according to IDC, the company is now the top mobile and smartphone reseller in the world. The former champ: Nokia, which now ranks third after Samsung and Apple, respectively.

Of total smartphones shipped worldwide Q1 2012, Samsung accounted for 42.2 million — a 267% year-on-year surge — reports IDC. Number two Apple shipped 35.1 million (up 88.7%) while Nokia shipped 11.9 million (down 50.8%), followed by RIM with 9.7 million (down 29.7%) and HTC with 6.9 million (down 23.3%).

Samsung Nipping at Apple’s Heels in U.S.

Add up Apple and Samsung’s smartphone totals in the U.S. and you get 99% of domestic market sales during the first quarter of 2012, says Canaccord Genuity analyst Michael Walkley. And while Samsung still lagged behind Apple in retail sales tracker NPD Group’s list of top U.S. smartphone manufacturers for the period, its market share surged 140% year-on-year, compared with just 7% domestic growth for Apple.

Apple retained its lead as the top U.S. smartphone manufacturer during the first quarter of 2012 with 29% market share, while Samsung placed second with 24%. Trailing both companies and experiencing year-on-year declines, HTC accounted for 15%, Motorola 10%, LG 7% and RIM BlackBerry 5%.

Who’s the mightiest first quarter mobile operating system of them all? Android, says NPD Group, accounting for 61% of U.S. sales, compared to 29% for iOS, 5% for RIM and just 2% for Windows Phone 7. The Android OS market grew 24% over the prior quarter to hit that number, while Apple’s iOS share declined for the same period from 41% to 29%.

Still, Apple’s iPhone dominated the top three spots in NPD’s first quarter U.S. handset rankings, with the iPhone 4S and 4 placing first and second, respectively, followed by the iPhone 3GS. Samsung’s Galaxy S II placed fourth, while the HTC EVO 3D took fifth.

“After some release of pent-up demand from customers adopting the iPhone 4S, coupled with the company’s strength in the holiday season, Apple’s share fell in the first quarter, as we’ve often seen it do in the quarter following its introduction of a new handset,” said NPD Group executive director Ross Rubin. “Now that the iPhone is available on Sprint, though, the increased carrier coverage has created a higher baseline for Apple’s share than we have seen in the past.”

NPD says Samsung’s growth has a lot to do with the prepaid market, which experienced growth during the period (it’s also an option Apple lacks). Android phones commanded 79% of the prepaid market during the first quarter, while NPD says four out of 10 prepaid smartphones, or 38% of all sold in the U.S., were made by Samsung.

Rubin calls Samsung “the¬†only market leader from the feature phone era to transition to market leadership in the smartphone era in the U.S.” How’d they pull it off? Rubin chalks it up to “broad carrier support” and “advertising.”

That said, IDC senior research analyst Ramon Llamas says the global race between Samsung and Apple “remained tight during the quarter, even as both companies posted growth in key areas” and cautions that “the contest between Apple and Samsung will bear close observation as hotly-anticipated new models are launched.”