It’s Seabiscuit vs War Admiral, Secretariat vs. Sham. Apple and Samsung have turned the smartphone war into a two-horse race.
In the fourth quarter the two handset giants were neck and neck in terms of smartphone sales. Apple sold 37 million iPhones, putting it just ahead of Samsung, which sold 36.5 million of its own smartphones. that gave Apple a 23.9% share of the smartphone market to Samsung’s 23.5% share according to Strategy Analytics.
Apple had fallen behind Samsung in the third quarter as the later-than-usual release of its newest iPhone model caused many buyers to put off purchases. but it all worked out in the end. A new release, coming just in time for the holidays helped Apple set a new record for shipments. And publicity surrounding the death of Steve Jobs, just 9 days before the iPhone 4S release, may also have goosed sales.
Samsung, meanwhile, benefits by having global distribution reach second only to Nokia according to Alex Spektor of Strategy Analytics. It also has a broader portfolio of phones than Apple. The low end Galaxy Y appeals to cost-sensitive buyers while the high-end Galaxy S2 competes head-to-head with the iPhone.
What’s interesting is that Apple passed Samsung without a low-end product. If Apple develops one, it could be tough to catch.