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Samsung top cell phone maker, though Apple's no slouch

Samsung is outshining Nokia and Apple in mobile phone sales, but the iPhone maker saw its global market share more than double, says Gartner.

Samsung's Galaxy S II
Samsung's Galaxy S II Samsung

Samsung has been crowned the king of mobile phones by yet another research firm.

The Korean handset maker sold 86.6 million mobile phones in the first quarter, according to the latest stats from Gartner -- a 25.9 percent jump from the year-ago quarter. That gave Samsung a 20.7 percent share of the market and helped it win back the top spot for smartphone sales from Apple.

Samsung sold 38 million smartphones last quarter, accounting for more than 40 percent of all Android phones around the world. That figure was by far in the lead since no another Android vendor captured more than 10 percent of the market.

Second-place Nokia gave up its almost 15-year lock as the leading mobile phone vendor to Samsung.

The Finnish phone maker grabbed a mobile phone market share of 19.8 percent last quarter, according to Gartner. Nokia's handset sales dropped to 83.2 million, a 22.7 percent decline from last year's first quarter. The company has seen its sales and market share plummet as more consumers have gravitated to smartphones.

"Smartphone sales are becoming of paramount importance at a worldwide level," Gartner principal research analyst Anshul Gupta said in a statement. "For example, smartphone volumes contributed to approximately 43.9 percent of overall sales for Samsung as opposed to 16 percent for Nokia."

Apple took third place in the global mobile phone market. The iPhone maker scored 7.9 percent share in the first quarter, up from 3.9 percent a year ago. The iPhone 4S helped boost Apple's handset sales by 96.2 percent. The company's expansion into other countries and carriers also provided a healthy kick.

Accounting for iPhone unit sales of more than 5 million, China is now the second largest market for Apple, just behind the U.S.

RIM continues to struggle, ekeing out a worldwide market share of just 2.4 percent, down from 3 percent a year ago The company sold 9.9 million phones last quarter, down from 13 million in 2011's first quarter. The company is counting on its new BlackBerry 10 platform to turn the tide but faces several challenges.

"RIM desperately needs to deliver winning BB10 products to retain users and stay competitive," Gupta said. "This will be very challenging, because BB10 lacks strong developer support, and a new BB10 device will only be available in the fourth quarter of 2012."

The mobile industry as a whole witnessed a slight dip in sales last quarter.

Global sales of mobile phones rang in at 419 million, a 2 percent drop from a year ago. Gartner blamed the downturn on weaker demand in the Asia/Pacific region triggered by a lack of new product launches and efforts by users to delay purchases in hopes of scoring better deals later this year.