Galaxy and iPhone Top Smartphone Seller

Apple's long-awaited iPhone 4S and Samsung Electronics' fresh, broad offering are likely to stand out in this season's smartphone sales which will otherwise be clouded by global economic uncertainty.

Apple, which lost its position as the world's largest smartphone maker to Samsung last quarter, could regain top spot as consumers rush to buy the latest iPhone after waiting 16 months since the previous model went on sale.

"It's really only the iPhone family and the (Samsung) Galaxy family flying off the shelves. Everyone else is just picking up the leftovers," said Neil Mawston, analyst at research firm Strategy Analytics in Milton Keynes.

HTC and Research In Motion -- No.4 and No.5 smartphone vendors -- have already warned of weak holiday sales. The year end is a key sales season for smartphone vendors as consumers often replace their models for the holidays.

Overall phone sales have been shrinking in western Europe this year as consumers delay purchases in a tighter economy. Analysts expect sales of non-smartphones to stay on a par with year-ago numbers.Smartphone sales growth, which is driven by swapping for more advanced models, has slowed over the year.

"For Europe, Q4 will not be the usual bonanza. The economy is pushing consumers to be pickier," said Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi, adding this played to the advantage of Samsung and Apple.

Samsung's handset sales this year broke a new annual record by the end of November, boosted by good demand for its flagship Galaxy S II model, whose sales reached 10 million units, the company said a week ago.

Sales of Nokia products will also be closely watched in the quarter for first reactions to its Windows Phone models, although most Nokia smartphones are still powered by its own ageing Symbian software.

Analysts expect Nokia's smartphones sales in the fourth quarter to fall 31 percent from a year ago to 19 million phones as the new Windows Phones will not yet compensate for diving Symbian sales. Still, that would be well ahead of HTC's 11 million and RIM's 14 million.

Chinese vendors ZTE and Huawei have started to win market share with their cheap smartphones using Android, and cut-price competition is set to continue with chipset supplier Spreadtrum unveiling last week a platform for $40 Android phones.


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