Samsung regains smartphone sales crown from Apple

The South Korean electronics giant's market share shrinks to 24 percent from 31 percent a year ago, but that's still enough to beat Apple.

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Steven Musil
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Samsung regained the global smartphone sales crown despite losing market share. CNET

Samsung Electronics has recaptured its title as the world's top smartphone maker, according to new research released Tuesday.

The South Korean electronics giant shipped 83.2 million smartphones worldwide during the first quarter of 2015, capturing 24 percent of the smartphone market, according to market researcher Strategy Analytics. While that's a decrease from its 31 percent marketshare a year ago, it still bests the 17.7 percent marketshare Apple recorded with 61.2 million units shipped during the quarter. The iPhone maker's market share expanded on the 15.3 percent it commanded a year ago but shrank from the 19.6 percent it captured in the fourth quarter of 2014, according to Strategy Analytics.

"Samsung continued to face challenges in Asia and elsewhere, but its global performance has stabilized sufficiently well this quarter to overtake Apple and recapture first position as the world's largest smartphone vendor by volume," Neil Mawston, executive director at Strategy Analytics, said in a statement.

The results reverse the sales positions that the world's largest smartphone makers landed in last quarter. According to Gartner research published last month, the iPhone 6's popularity helped Apple pass Samsung to become the world's biggest smartphone maker in the fourth quarter.

Apple sold 74.8 million iPhones during the fourth quarter of 2014 to achieve its best quarter ever and give it a 20.4 percent share of worldwide smartphone sales, Gartner reported. Over the same period, Samsung's share of the smartphone market, on sales of 73 million units, plummeted to 19.9 percent from 29.5 percent.

Samsung's return to the smartphone throne in the first quarter came despite its IT and mobile business recording a 57 percent year-over-year drop in operating profits during its first quarter. Samsung doesn't disclose its smartphone sales figures, but analysts had estimated Samsung shipped 82 million smartphones for the period, down from the 89 million a year earlier, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Strategy Analytics' results do not include sales of the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge, which hit the market earlier this month. Samsung has predicted record sales for Galaxy S6 devices and says it's selling the phones faster than it came make them.

Strategy Analytics' research showed that the smartphone game is still solidly a two-horse race. The Lenovo-Motorola tieup, which was finalized in October, registered a distant third with a 5.4 percent share of the market on shipments of 18.8 million units. Close behind Lenovo was Huawei, with 5 percent market share on 17.3 million units shipped.