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Samsung pulling away from Apple in smartphone market

Company scores 29.1 percent of the worldwide smartphone market last quarter and easily outpaces Apple's 24.2 percent market share, IDC says.

It's no secret that Samsung and Apple are battling it out for smartphone dominance. But it appears Samsung is, at least for now, winning the war.

During the first quarter, Samsung shipped 42.2 million smartphones worldwide, earning it 29.1 percent market share, according to a study released today by research firm IDC. Apple, meanwhile, shipped 35.1 million iPhones, helping it to secure 24.2 percent market share.

During the same period last year, Samsung shipped just 11.5 million smartphones, while Apple shipped 18.6 million units.

"The race between Apple and Samsung remained tight during the quarter, even as both companies posted growth in key areas," Ramon Llamas, a senior research analyst with IDC, said today in a statement. "Apple launched its popular iPhone 4S in additional key markets, most notably in China, and Samsung experienced continued success from its Galaxy Note smartphone/tablet and other Galaxy smartphones."

Interestingly, not all research firms agree on the size of the spread between Samsung shipments and iPhone shipments last quarter. Although Juniper Research today stated that Apple shipped 35.1 million iPhones during the period, the research firm asserted that Samsung actually shipped 46.9 million devices, earning it 33 percent market share.

"While Apple and Samsung have taken it in turns to lead the smartphone market over the last four quarters, it seems as if Samsung may now have established a firm lead in this space, shipping 11.8 million more units than the Cupertino, California company in Q1," Juniper said in a statement today.

Apple and Samsung have become arch enemies in the mobile market. Not only are the companies vying for the top spot in sales, but they're also heavily engaged in a host of lawsuits around the world. The companies' CEOs are expected to hold mediation talks later this month to address their legal issues, but there appears to be no love lost between the parties.

Samsung might have an advantage with smartphone shipment calculations, since it sells many more devices than Apple does. Still, Apple has more iPhones on store shelves than ever, offering the iPhone 3GS for free, the iPhone 4 for $100, and the iPhone 4S for as little as $200 with two-year contracts.

But as IDC points out, the smartphone market is about more than just Samsung and Apple. It's just too bad consumers don't see it that way.

During the first quarter, Nokia saw its shipments plummet 50.8 percent year over year to 11.9 million units. Research In Motion's BlackBerry device shipments fell 29.7 percent, while HTC was down 23.3 percent. Combined, the three companies could not match either Samsung's or Apple's market share.

For the smartphone market as a whole, however, things are looking up. During the first quarter of 2011, 101.7 million smartphones hit store shelves, according to IDC. A year later, that figure soared to 144.9 million units.