In 2011, Samsung became the world's largest manufacturer of smartphones, when it overtook both Apple and Nokia, according to US-based research company HIS iSuppli. However, the success of Apple's iPhone 4S enabled Apple to outsell Samsung in the year's final quarter.
Samsung shipped 95 million smartphones in 2011, an increase of 278 percent from 25 million in 2010. Apple's shipments almost doubled from 47 million to 93 million units.
iSuppli warns that its table (below) is incomplete: it does not include companies that have not yet reported results, such as RIM, HTC and LG. However, the top two places are not in doubt.
Wayne Lam, IHS's senior analyst for wireless communications, said in a statement: "Samsung advanced in 2011 because of its strategy of offering a complete line of smartphone products, spanning a variety of price points, features and operating systems. This enabled Samsung to move past perennial market leader Nokia and to slightly exceed Apple's total for the year."
Apple overtook Samsung in the fourth quarter of 2011 by shipping 37 million smartphones, an increase of 117 percent. Samsung's smartphone shipments grew by only 28 percent to 36 million units, according to iSuppli.
Research company Strategy Analytics had the same ranking but listed Samsung's smartphone shipments at 36.5 million units.
Apple is suing Samsung in numerous countries to try to halt its advance, which is based mainly on the success of smartphones running Google's Android operating system.
Nokia under pressure
Nokia, the former market leader, increased its smartphone shipments from 17 million to 20 million units in the fourth quarter, when it launched its Lumia range running Microsoft's Windows Phone operating system. Over the full year, however, Nokia's smartphone shipments slumped by 23 percent from 100 million to 77 million units, according to iSuppli.
Bloomberg estimated that Nokia sold 1.3 million Lumia phones: the average of estimates from 22 market analysts. Nokia declined to provide numbers, but said it had "sold well over 1 million Lumia devices to date". However, Nokia did say that it had sold 93.9 million mobile phones in the fourth quarter of 2011, a slight reduction on last year's 95 million.
Nokia said it was selling about a dozen Symbian Series 40 phones every second, and has now sold 1.5 billion of them. It estimated that about 675 million S40 phones were still in active use. Late last year, Nokia launched the Asha range of S40 feature phones, which can send messages, upload photos to Facebook and Twitter, and play Angry Birds.
Nokia's strategy is to move users from Symbian S40 phones to smartphones running Windows Phone 7.5. However, this is threatened by the growing availability of Android smartphones at very low prices.