Samsung, Apple to Pass Nokia as Smartphone Leader: Report

More bad news for beleaguered Nokia: The company may soon lose its smartphone crown to Apple and Samsung.

Nokia's position as the top producer of smartphones may well end this quarter, according to a forecast from Nomura. The company noted competition from smartphone manufacturers such as Samsung and Apple will reduce Nokia's share in the smartphone market, though thanks to a broad base of mobile phone sales overall, Nokia is likely to keep its lead as the world's biggest mobile phone manufacturer.

"Nokia looks set to relinquish its smartphone crown to Samsung and Apple," Nomura analysts said in a research note. "Further emphasizing the shift in power to Asia is our forecast for HTC to almost match Nokia during 2012."

Nomura wasn't the only analyst firm to place Nokia in a position of decline: Gartner researchers suggested the mobile phone giant is in a precarious position as well. "If Nokia's new phones are not well received in the third quarter and [with] the Galaxy S2 ramping up, Samsung might overtake them and become the smartphone leader in Q3," Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi said.

Nokia CEO Stephen Elop announced Feb. 11 that Nokia, effective immediately, was making a major shift, and that Windows, not Symbian, would be the company's primary focus. Both Nokia and Microsoft have had trouble winning consumers away from Apple's iPhone and Android-running smartphones. Elop recently expressed hope that the first Nokia smartphones running Microsoft's Windows Phone platform will arrive in 2011, though not wanting to disappoint, the company has promised nothing until 2012.

Despite the move to the Windows Phone 7 OS, Nokia plans to release Symbian phones in 2012 and is obligated to support them for two years, according to a report, keeping Nokia tied to Symbian until at least 2014. In April, Nokia's Australian managing director, Chris Carr, told the tech site Australia IT that Nokia is contractually obligated to support new devices for two years-and the phone maker has already committed to releasing new Symbian phones in 2011 and 2012.

As Nokia's stock price has tumbled and analysts issue increasingly pessimistic research notes about the company's future, speculation over an acquisition has only increased Just last week, Elop denied rumors of an imminent $19 billion takeover by Microsoft. "Nokia is not for sale," Elop reportedly told an audience during the Open Mobile Summit in London, according to The Wall Street Journal.

"We would continue to avoid the stock as Symbian smartphone sales are falling off faster than expected and we are skeptical that new Windows Phone (WP) models will be able to replace lost profits," Stephen Patel, an analyst with Gleacher & Company, wrote in a May 31 research note. "Our checks suggest mixed carrier support for Nokia's transition to WP."