updated 04:35 pm EDT, Thu November 3, 2011
IDC Q3 2011 smartphones show Samsung in front
New IDC data on Thursday supported beliefs that Samsung had overtaken Apple at least temporarily for the lead in world smartphone shipments. The research group estimated that Samsung had shipped 23.6 million smartphones in the summer, giving it exactly 20 percent of the smartphone market and the front position. A wait for the iPhone 4S meant Apple's nearly 17.1 million units pushed it down temporarily to 14.5 percent and second place.
Nokia's continued slide in smartphones was apparent as its market share was more than cut in half to 14.2 percent, keeping it at third place. HTC's rapid ascent and 12.7 million phones saw it climb to fourth and 10.8 percent, overtaking the rapidly sliding RIM at 10 percent and 11.8 million BlackBerrys shipped during the period, which covered July through September.
The situation was expected to be one of the most volatile in recent memory. Samsung's ability to keep sales of phones like the Galaxy S II going during the holidays isn't clear, although it just recently finished launching all of its US Galaxy S II variants and will soon ship the Galaxy Nexus. Apple is the most primed to get share back and has an opportunity to leapfrog Samsung.
Nokia has just launched its Lumia Windows Phones and may catch customers who wanted Nokia but didn't want Symbian. HTC may stand to lose the most: it has predicted flat shipments and could lose share even if Nokia continues to drop.
The results have room for flexibility since, as with most such charts, they can only track known or estimated shipments, not sales. Some of the companies, such as Samsung and RIM, either don't give out data publicly or have mismatched quarters that prevent an easy comparison.