Galaxy S III, Dashing Ahead of the iPhone 4S, Was Q3's Best Seller

The Galaxy S III was the top-selling smartphone during 2012's third quarter, beating the iPhone 4S for the first time.

Samsung's Galaxy S III was the best-selling smartphone model in the world during the third quarter of 2012, according to a Nov. 8 report from Strategy Analytics.

Telling yet another story of Samsung's smart use of the long stretch between Apple's iPhone releases, the research firm found that Samsung sold 18 million of the pocket-busting, Android-running Galaxy smartphones.

"The Galaxy S III captured an impressive 11 percent share of all smartphones shipped globally and it has become the world's best-selling smartphone model for the first time ever," said Senior Analyst Neil Shah. "A large touch-screen design, extensive distribution across dozens of countries and generous operator subsidies have been among the main causes of the Galaxy S III's success."

While Apple offered its iPhone exclusively through AT&T for years before expanding its availability to Verizon and Sprint, Samsung's strategy for the Galaxy S III—from the device's specs, to the May 3 London event at which it was introduced, to the numbers of Samsung's carrier partners—has been to go big. While intense global demand for the phone initially caused delays, the Galaxy S III more or less debuted simultaneously the Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and U.S. Cellular networks.

The Galaxy is remarkably thin and light and packed with features, from the ability to use its front camera to watch the user to the NFC-enabled ability to swap content with another GS III when the two are tapped together. Still, Strategy Analytics suspects that the device's taking of the title had as much to do with Apple as Samsung.

Apple, with the second-best-selling smartphone of the quarter, sold 16.2 million iPhone 4S units—the result of consumers temporarily putting off purchases in anticipation of the iPhone 5, said Shah. When the iPhone 5 arrived, with just days left in the quarter, Apple managed to sell 6 million of them.

"Samsung's Galaxy S III has proven wildly popular with consumers and operators across North America, Europe and Asia. However, the Galaxy S III's position as the world's best-selling smartphone model is likely to be short-lived," Strategy Analytics Executive Director Neil Mawston said in the report.

With the iPhone 5 having already gotten off to a solid start, Mawston added, "We expect the new iPhone to out-ship Samsung's Galaxy S III in the coming fourth quarter of 2012 and Apple should soon reclaim the title of the world's most popular smartphone model."

Apple sold more than 5 million iPhone 5 units within three days of the phone going on sale, Apple announced Sept. 24. It added in a statement that it had sold through its initial supply and was working hard to get an iPhone 5 to everyone who wants one.

While the Galaxy S III, at launch, was the largest smartphone most anyone had seen, featuring a display that measures 4.8 inches on the diagonal and measuring 5.38 by 2.78 by 0.34 inches, the iPhone 5 is a study in barely-there. Reviewing it in The New York Times, David Pogue called it startlingly thin and "well on its way to becoming a bookmark." It features a display that's 4 inches on the diagonal and it features 4.87 by 2.31 by 0.30.

Consumers, likely, weren't persuaded away from the prospect of a new iPhone but from nearly everything else. The Galaxy S III accounted for a 10.7 percent share of the market by smartphone model, during a quarter that saw sales of 167.8 million smartphones.