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Mobile Sales Slip, But Samsung Sales Push Android

Samsung smartphone sales keep Android growing as the market awaits Apple's iPhone 5.
Apple iPhone 5 Vs. Samsung Galaxy S III: What We Know
Apple iPhone 5 Vs. Samsung Galaxy S III: What We Know
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Despite declining mobile phone sales during the second quarter of 2012, Samsung managed to increase its sales, further extending its lead over Apple and Nokia.

Based on sales figures reported by research consultancy Gartner, Samsung mobile phone sales grew 29.5% from the second quarter of 2012. During this period, 419 million mobile phones were sold worldwide, which is 2.3% less than the second quarter of 2011.

The overall decline reflects seasonal trends, a challenging economic climate, and diminishing interest in feature phones, mobile phones not sophisticated enough to be called smartphones. "Demand of feature phones continued to decline, significantly weakening the overall mobile phone market," Gartner principal research analyst Anshul Gupta said in a statement.

Smartphone sales grew 42.7% during the second quarter of 2012 and represented 36.7% of total mobile phone sales, according to Gartner. Gupta said that while feature phone sales should face continued pressure for the remainder of the year, smartphone sales should improve with Apple's anticipated launch of the iPhone 5 and ongoing adoption of 3G technology in the Chinese market.

[ Apple vs. Samsung could affect the Android developer community at large. Read Samsung Prospects Dim Vs. Apple: What Next, Android Designers? ]

Gartner noted that smartphones now represent more than half of all Samsung mobile device sales, and that the Samsung Galaxy S3 has sold over 10 million units since it was released two months ago, more than even Samsung expected.

Apple is expected to launch the iPhone 5 next month, and that should revive flagging interest in the company's marquee mobile product: Demand for the iPhone during the second quarter, up 47.4% year-on-year, was down 12.6% from the first quarter of 2012--a decline that suggests consumers are delaying iPhone purchases until the new model arrives.

Samsung's growing lead over Apple in smartphone sales underscores what's at stake in the legal conflict that has been playing out between the two companies in a San Jose, Calif. courtroom for the past two weeks, and in other courts around the world.

Apple has scored some victories, winning injunctions (subsequently stayed) against Samsung products in the United States and the European Union. But it's far from clear that Apple's apparent legal advantage can curtail the growing popularity of Samsung smartphones and Google's Android operating system. In the long term, whatever Apple ends up winning in monetary damages--assuming it does get the better of Samsung--may not adequately make up for the loss of platform preeminence and developer mind-share.

Android OS devices accounted for 64.1% of mobile phone sales during the second quarter of 2012, up from 43.4% during the same period a year ago. The percentage of devices sold in Q2 2012 running Apple's iOS remained similar to the same period a year earlier, just over 18%.

Android's market-share gain during this period has come at the expense of Symbian (formerly maintained by Nokia), Research In Motion, Microsoft, and Samsung's Bada.