Samsung knocks Nokia off smartphone top spot

The king is dead; long live the king. After a 14-year run, Nokia has finally lost its crown as the world’s leading cellphone manufacturer.

According to IHS iSuppli, the honor now goes to Samsung, which has more than doubled its market share from 12.2 percent in the first quarter of last year to 30.6 percent now. 

And that’s a share of a much bigger total market, with global cellphone shipments rising 40 percent over the last year to hit 145 million units.

Samsung shipped 92 million cellphones worldwide in the first quarter, compared with 83 million for Nokia.

“With cellphones now accounting for more than 40 percent of Samsung’s overall revenue, it’s clear that the company’s continued investments in smartphone hardware and software R&D are paying off,” says Wayne Lam, senior analyst for wireless communications at IHS.

“The company is not only cashing in on the market’s shift to smartphones, but is also succeeding in other cellphone product categories, allowing it to capture the overall market lead. What makes Samsung’s performance even more impressive is that the company’s latest Galaxy S III handset has yet to be launched, with shipments set to start in May.”

As a result, he says, Samsung’s likely to widen its lead during the course of this year. It’s ‘betting on all horses’, says iSuppli, while Nokia is relying heavily on Windows Phone. If this strategy is to work, though, it’ll need a lot more support from carriers.

In the smartphone sector, Apple stayed in the lead with 35 million units shipped during the quarter. However, this figure was down five percent on the same period last year.

And smartphones are the only segment of the global cellphone business that’s actually expected to increase over the next year. Next year, indeed, iSuppli expects smartphone shipments to account for more than haf the total cellphone market for the first time.