July 25 (Bloomberg) -- Samsung Electronics Co., maker of the Galaxy mobile phone, may have surpassed Nokia Oyj and Apple Inc. in smartphone sales for the first time on demand for devices that run on Android software, a research company said.
Samsung is estimated to have sold between 18 million and 21 million smartphones globally in the April-June quarter, compared with 16.7 million for Nokia and 20.3 million iPhones, Neil Mawston, a London-based analyst at Strategy Analytics, a research company based in Boston, said in an e-mailed response to questions on July 22. The data exclude tablet-computer sales.
The estimates show Google Inc.’s Android is gaining ground on Apple in smartphones as Nokia, which is turning to Microsoft Corp. for software support, struggles to keep up with the pace. Samsung, which also produces low-end phones that aren’t capable of downloading applications, has said it aims to more than double sales of high-end devices this year.
“Samsung’s Android portfolio is selling strongly in most regions,” said Mawston. “Samsung stands a reasonable chance of capturing the top spot on a quarterly basis if it can continue expanding its Android portfolio across high-growth markets like China and Brazil. Samsung and Apple will be at similar levels in smartphones by the end of the year.”
Including basic phones, Samsung will probably have a 20 percent share this year, compared with Nokia’s 26 percent, closing the gap between the world’s two largest handset makers to the narrowest ever, he said.
Samsung wasn’t immediately able to verify the figures, said Nam Ki Yung, a Seoul-based spokesman for the Suwon, South Korea-based company. Steve Park, a Seoul-based spokesman for Apple, declined to comment.
Cherry Gong, a Nokia spokeswoman in China, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment.
Samsung fell 0.4 percent to 847,000 won at the 3:00 p.m. close in Seoul, while South Korea’s benchmark Kospi index lost 1 percent. The shares have declined 11 percent this year.
Samsung’s global smartphone sales had lagged behind Nokia, Apple and Research in Motion Ltd. in the first quarter, according to researcher International Data Corp.
The South Korean company’s sales are accelerating after it began selling the Galaxy S II, a successor to its best-selling Android device introduced last year to counter Apple.
Samsung planned to roll out the model in 120 countries through 140 operators from May, the company said in April. The latest Galaxy handset went on sale last week in five cities in China, including Beijing and Shanghai, as the company seeks to make a push into the world’s largest market for mobile phones.
The latest 4.27-inch Galaxy phone, unveiled in February, helped Samsung more than double operating profit at its mobile phone business in the second quarter, according to five analysts polled by Bloomberg News.
Apple reported net income that beat estimates on July 19, lifted by record sales of iPhones and iPads. In contrast, Nokia reported its first quarterly loss since 2009 as the Finnish company struggles to sell handsets based on its 10-year-old Symbian software.
Cupertino, California-based Apple plans to introduce a new iPhone in September that boasts a stronger chip for processing data and a more advanced camera, two people familiar with the product said last month.
Apple sued Samsung in April, claiming the Galaxy products “slavishly” copied technologies and designs used in the iPad and iPhone. The suit against Samsung added to its patent fights with Android-device makers including Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. and HTC Corp., with the Google software gaining market share.
Android’s share will rise to 44 percent by 2015 from 39 percent this year, according to a forecast by IDC. Global sales of smartphones will soar 55 percent to 472 million units this year, according to the researcher.
Samsung is also tapping consumers looking for lower-priced models with devices using its own Bada software. It plans to introduce a new model based on the system in the second half, J.K. Shin, head of Samsung’s mobile-phone division, said July 20.
The debut of a new iPhone may slow the momentum for Samsung, Mawston said.
“Samsung will need to work hard to hold off that competitive threat,” he said.
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