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Nokia Smartphone Sales Improve, But Samsung Leads

Q3 earnings reports show Samsung holding its strong lead in the smartphone market, followed by Apple. Meanwhile, Nokia shows new signs of life.

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Smartphone makers shipped a record 258.4 million smartphones during the third quarter of the year. That's up 9% from last quarter's record-breaking shipments of 237 million. Consumers' lust for smartphones continues to drive forward an industry that's dominated by Apple, Samsung, and a few others. Nokia, in particular, saw an encouraging jump in sales that suggests its turnaround strategy is slowly beginning to take effect.

Samsung shipped an estimated 81.2 million smartphones during the third quarter, giving it 31.4% of the market worldwide. Samsung's total mobile device shipments totaled 115.4 million, which includes smartphones and feature phones. It remains the world's largest producer of mobile devices, owning 24.7% of the entire mobile device market.

Apple ranks second in terms of smartphone shipments. The company moved 33.8 million iPhones during the third quarter, which gives it 13.1% of the worldwide smartphone market but just 7.2% of the entire mobile device market. Apple released the iPhone 5s and 5c late during the third quarter but managed to sell 9 million of the new devices during their first weekend of availability in September.

[ Nokia jumps into the tablet market. Read more at Nokia Debuts Lumia Windows Tablet, Smartphones. ]

China's Huawei takes the third spot in smartphone shipments. It shipped 12.5 million devices during the third quarter, giving it 4.8% of the smartphone market. Total mobile device shipments from Huawei reached 14.6 million, for 3.1% of the worldwide cell phone market.

Lenovo is ranked fourth in worldwide smartphones with shipments of 12.3 million. It holds 4.7% of the market, though the bulk of its sales are in its home market of China. LG rounds out the top five, with shipments of 12 million and a market share of 4.6%. Absent from the top five: Motorola, Sony, Nokia and ZTE, for starters.

The numbers from Samsung, Apple, Huawei, Lenovo, LG and others fall in line with expectations, showing that no matter how hard the smaller players try, Samsung and Apple continue to dominate.

"Beyond Samsung and Apple at the top of the rankings is a tight race of vendors trying to break out from the pack," said Ramon Llamas, research manager with IDC's mobile phone team. "In 3Q13, Chinese vendors Huawei and Lenovo moved past LG, and not far behind are two more Chinese companies, Coolpad and ZTE. Any of these vendors could change position again next quarter. But in addition to having close shipment volumes, they all have one key ingredient in common: Android. This has been a huge factor in their success, but it also speaks to the challenges of differentiation on the world's most popular platform."

There's a ray of sunshine beaming on Nokia, however, which reported its own third-quarter numbers Tuesday. The company sold 8.8 million Lumia smartphones -- the most it has sold to date. Notably, demand for Nokia's Windows Phone devices surged 367% across North America. The company shipped only 300,000 Lumias during the second quarter, but 1.4 million during the third quarter thanks to appealing devices such as the 925 and 1020. Nokia also sold 5.9 million Asha phones, which it calls smartphones but are called out separately in its quarterly statements. Combined, the company sold 14.7 million smart devices. Mobile device shipments from Nokia, which include its smart devices and feature phones, total 64.6 million, which gives it 13.8% of the worldwide market for cell phones.

Nokia likely has one or two more quarters before it is absorbed by Microsoft. The company recently announced its first Windows tablet and a new big-screened smartphone that will help it compete as it heads into the back half of the fourth quarter.

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