This Smartphone Maker Just Eclipsed Apple

Samsung Electronics (SSNLF.PK) just released its smartphone sales numbers for the third quarter — and they took a bite out of Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL). Samsung shipped more than 20 million smartphones compared to Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPLsales of 17.1 million units and Nokia’s (NYSE:NOK) sales of 16.8 million phones.

Investing Insights: Details Behind Apple’s Upcoming Record Fourth Quarter iPhone Sales.

Samsung definitely benefited from its key relationship with Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) and its popular Android operating system. Other factors driving sales were a focus on higher end phones that were enabled for video and e-mail.

“Samsung’s impressive smartphone growth has been driven by its attractive hardware designs, advanced features, a compelling Android ecosystem and an extensive global distribution network,” said Neil Mawston, an analyst with Strategy Analytics.

According to Won-Pyo Hong, executive vice president, “our relationship with Google was key.” He also acknowledged that, “The iPhone 4S wasn’t surprising to us,” Mr. Hong said. “Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) always brings creative products to the marketplace.” Mr. Hong also said the company “welcomes” Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) acquisition of Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. (NYSE:MMI), saying it’s “to protect the Android ecosystem and its partners.”

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Samsung have been embroiled in a slew of legal suits across the globe over patent disputes. Samsung is seeking to ban the sale of Apple’s new iPhone 4S in Japan, Australia, France and Italy. We’ll see if that helps Samsung keep the top smartphone sales spot.

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