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Samsung ahead of Apple in Q3 smartphone sales

Samsung Electronics Co. outpaced Apple Inc. in the global smartphone market by more than 10 million handsets during the third quarter of the year, industry data showed Friday.

According to the data, Samsung Electronics sold about 27 million smartphones during the July-to-Sept. period, while Apple’s figure came in at about 17 million.

While those in the industry had forecast that Samsung Electronics would outperform Apple in the period, the Korean electronics maker was expected to gain, at most, a 3 million handset lead.

While some point to Apple’s postponement of the launch of its new handset as the cause of the changes in the two companies’ figures, Samsung Electronics has been closing the sales gap between it and Apple for some time.

For the second quarter of last year, Samsung Electronics took 5 percent of the global smartphone market while Apple took 13.5 percent.

By the final quarter of 2010, Samsung Electronics had narrowed the gap with Apple to 5.5 percentage points, moving down to 1 percentage points during the second quarter of 2011.

Although Samsung Electronics’ lineup had included smartphones before the third quarter of last year, the chase after Apple began with the launch of the Galaxy S in June last year. Since its launch, more than 20 million units of the device have been sold, laying the ground for Samsung Electronics to take on the smartphone market. With the launch of the Galaxy S2 in April, more than 10 million units of which have been sold so far, Samsung’s chase picked up the pace.

While the new iPhone 4S has proved highly popular, those in the industry expect the Korean company’s lead to be maintained during the final quarter of the year.

In the four days following the iPhone 4S launch on Oct. 14, more than 4 million units were sold, outpacing the previous model’s sales figure for the comparable period by more than twofold.

However, with Samsung Electronics having a larger lineup and Galaxy Y, a more affordable smartphone model designed for emerging markets, ready for launch, some industry watchers are projecting that the company’s smartphone sales during the final three months of the year could rise as high as 40 million units.

By Choi He-suk (