Nokia Concedes Cell Phone Shipment Crown to Samsung

Paul Lilly

For the first time in 14 years, Nokia doesn't lead the cell phone market.

Given Samsung's fanatical following and the widespread popularity of the company's Galaxy S III device in particular, it's hardly shocking that Samsung would sit on top of the cell phone market. Nevertheless, Samsung's ascent to the top , in terms of market share, is pretty remarkable, considering Nokia has held the No. 1 spot for the past 14 years. Samsung is set to seize the crown by the end of the year.

According to IHS iSuppli, Samsung will end the year with a 29 percent share of the global cell phone market, skipping ahead of Nokia, which will sit in second place with a 24 percent share. Apple will close 2012 as a distant third with a 10 percent share, followed by ZTE at 6 percent and LG at 4 percent.

"The competitive reality of the cellphone market in 2012 was ‘live by the smartphone; die by the smartphone,’" said Wayne Lam, senior analyst for wireless communications at IHS. "Smartphones represent the fastest-growing segment of the cellphone market—and will account for nearly half of all wireless handset shipments for all of 2012. Samsung’s successes and Nokia’s struggles in the cell phone market this year were determined entirely by the two companies’ divergent fortunes in the smartphone sector."

Nokia has been looking to turn things around and make itself relevant again, but it's been focusing on Microsoft's Windows Phone platform, which isn't yet nearly as popular as Android or iOS. Even if Windows Phone becomes a force, Samsung is likely to stay on top, given its past successes.

In terms of smartphone shipments, Samsung and Apple battled for the top spot in 2011, with the former edging out the latter by a single percentage point (20 percent versus 19 percent). In 2012, Samsung was able to pull away and is on pace to close out the year with a 28 percent share of the smartphone market versus Apple's 20 percent.

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