Samsung sold 18 million units of its Galaxy S3 between July and September 2012. That was good enough for 11 per cent of the global total of 168 million units and marks the first time since the iPhone's release that a non-Apple device has held the top spot.
Strategy Analytics says Samsung's sales bested those at Apple, which saw 16.2 million versions of the iPhone 4S during that time period.
Samsung launched the Galaxy S3 in May, giving it a several-month head start on most device makers' latest offerings. Indeed, Apple launched the iPhone 5 in September. It's sales are so strong that Strategy Analytics says it expects Apple to reclaim the top spot during the fourth quarter of 2012.
Apple sold six million units of the iPhone 5 in its first month, so adding that to iPhone 4 sales, Apple still claims the overall sales dominance.
All in all, Samsung says it has sold 30 million Galaxy S3's in the five months since the device's launch. Nomura Financial Investment in Seoul forecasts that Samsung will sell 67 million smartphones in the October-December quarter.
2 companies in global fight for market share
Samsung does not disclose its quarterly smartphone sales figures, but analysts and research firms say the company sold a record 56 million to 58 million smartphones in July-September.
Research firm IDC ranks the South Korean firm as the world's top smartphone seller in the last three quarters. In the latest July-September period, Samsung sold 56.3 million smartphones versus Apple's 26.9 million, IDC said.
The two companies have been involved in a global fight for market share, exchanging lawsuits on four continents and taking aim at each other in marketing campaigns.
Samsung launched a wildly popular commercial during the iPhone 5 launch that suggested the Galaxy S3 already had all the features that those lining up for the iPhone 5 were so eager to get their hands on.
Apple has been obligated to publish a disclaimer on its website in some countries after a British judge dismissed the company's claim that Samsung had stolen its ideas.
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