Samsung Electronics made a record $5.2 billion profit in the first quarter, overhauling Nokia as the world’s top mobile phone seller, and its Galaxy smartphones outstripped Apple’s iPhone at the high end of the market.
The South Korean group’s handset division shifted more than 20,000 Galaxy phones an hour in the quarter and contributed most of its operating profit.
That company’s shares hit a lifetime high after the results, pushing its market value to $190 billion, 11 times that of Japanese rival Sony, though still only a third of Apple’s, the world’s most valuable company.
Samsung sold 93.5 million handsets in the quarter, more than one in every four sold, according to Strategy Analytics, toppling Nokia from the top spot after 14 years.
The total included 44.5 million smartphones, giving Samsung a 30.6 per cent share of the high-end market. Apple’s sales of 35.1 million iPhones gave it a 24.1 per cent share.
“Samsung and Apple are out-competing most major rivals, and the smartphone market is at risk of becoming a two-horse race,” said Neil Mawston, an analyst at Strategy Analytics.
CLSA analyst Matt Evans said in a report that “Samsung’s smartphone success in the first quarter was the flip-side of Nokia’s disappointment.”
Nokia, which had long been the leader in the smartphone segment until last year, has suffered a sharp decline in sales since it abandoned its own smartphone operating system and switched to the largely untried Windows Phone. It managed to sell only 12 million smartphones in the first quarter.
The near duopoly in high-end smartphones is unlikely to come under much threat this year or next, according to Bernstein analysts.