Apple is set to become the world's largest smartphone vendor by volume, according to new data from research firm Strategy Analytics.
"We had previously reported on Apple becoming the largest smartphone vendor in terms of revenue and profits," Alex Spektor, an analyst with Strategy Analytics, wrote in a July 29 research note. "Now, just four years after the release of the original iPhone, Apple has become the world's largest smartphone vendor by volume with 18 percent market share."
The firm places Samsung in second place with 17.5 percent, then Nokia with 15.2 percent and undefined "others" with 48.9 percent.
Apple is currently pursuing a lawsuit that accuses Samsung of copying its products, an intellectual-property battle made more complicated by the symbiotic relationship between the two companies: Even as the iPhone and iPad compete fiercely with Samsung's Galaxy S smartphone and Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet, Apple remains a major purchaser of electronic components from its rival. Samsung has responded to Apple's legal maneuvering with patent-infringement lawsuits of its own.
For its part, Nokia hopes that wholesale adoption of Windows Phone as its new software platform will reverse its market-share declines. Its first devices running Microsoft's smartphone platform are expected to make their debut by the end of the year.
All three companies have new smartphones in the pipeline for later in 2011. Samsung's Galaxy S II is reportedly prepping for an August release in the United States, following a solid sales run in international markets such as South Korea and Japan. And Apple will likely debut its next iPhone sometime in the fall timeframe.
According to Experian's PriceGrabber shopping Website, some 35 percent of 3,000 U.S. consumers said they would buy the iPhone 5 upon its release. Around 48 percent of those polled said they prefer Apple's iOS platform to alternatives such as Google Android or BlackBerry.
The iPhone 5-or whatever Apple finally decides to name its next smartphone-will run iOS 5, a major update to the company's mobile operating system. If you believe the rumors floating around, the device will feature some high-end hardware, such as an 8-megapixel camera and Apple's proprietary A5 processor.
That updated OS and hardware could give Apple the tools it needs to compete more heartily against Google Android, which is appearing on ever-more devices by rival manufacturers. The bigger question, though, is whether a new iPhone-particularly one launched on multiple carriers and supplemented by older versions sold at lower price points-will radically change the game for Apple, as it seeks to solidify its market position.