The South Korean electronics giant shipped more than 90 million handsets from January through March, dethroning Nokia, which had topped cell phone shipments dating back to 1998.
Samsung rose to the top in part due to Nokia’s absences in the market, which helped the company gain over the past year. The Finnish phone companystruggled to rebrand itself as a smartphone maker with its first Windows Phone handset, closing the window on opportunity in the transition.
In the meantime, Samsung’s Galaxy smartphones raised the company to a new level in the mobile market, but Nokia has big plans for the rest of the year that may help it reclaim its title.
Nokia now has a presence at T-Mobile and AT&T in the U.S. with its Lumia phones and is planning to bring a device to Verizon by the end of the year. As Nokia becomes more established in the smartphone arena, it will become a much more formidable opponent for Samsung.
Nokia works to build its smartphone cache and broaden distribution for its handsets, but it faces tough competition that may stunt its growth significantly. Apple remains the world’s top smartphone shipper, and it will be difficult for Nokia’s Windows devices to gain a foothold against an established handset like the iPhone.
In addition, Samsung achieved its strong first quarter numbers without the help of the Galaxy S3, which many experts believe will be the company’s best-selling device. Even if Nokia does gain momentum, competing with behemoths like the Galaxy S3 and the iPhone may hurt its chance to bounce back.
Samsung’s top rank is not etched in stone, as Nokia can attest. And, if Nokia’s Windows Phones don’t find a sweet spot with consumers, it will have a hard time keeping up, much less climbing back to the top spot.