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Apple Beats Samsung... For Now

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Apple (AAPL - Get Report) is finally the king of the castle.

Research firm Strategy Analytics has come out with a report showing that Apple has overtaken Samsung as the top phone maker in the all-important U.S. market. The Cupertino, Calif.-based firm sold 17.7 million smartphones during the fourth quarter, taking 34% of the market. Samsung sold 16.8 million units, capturing 32.3% of the market. The South Korean tech giant sells the majority of its phones using Google's (GOOG - Get Report) Android operating system, but also sells some Microsoft (MSFT) Windows-based phones as well.

Neil Mawston, Executive Director at Strategy Analytics, noted that Apple's success was driven by its ecosystem, carrier subsidies and the new iPhone 5. "Apple has become the number one mobile phone vendor by volume in the United States for the first time ever," he said, in a statement. "Apple's success has been driven by its popular ecosystem of iPhones and App Store, generous carrier subsidies, and extensive marketing around the new iPhone 5 model."

LG came in third place, selling 4.7 million phones, capturing 9% of the market.

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During Apple's recent fiscal first-quarter, it sold 47.8 million iPhones around the world, a 29% year-over-year hike.

Despite Apple overtaking Samsung during the fourth quarter, Samsung managed to capture the crown for all of 2012, selling 53 million phones in the United States, compared to 43.7 million for Apple. The two companies managed to capture 58% of the smartphone market in 2012, leaving LG and others far behind.

There are concerns, however, that Apple's losing its smartphone luster, which could be a reason for its share slump in recent months. Since the start of 2013, Apple has fallen 14.4%, and is down 23.5% over the past three months.

AAPL Chart AAPL data by YCharts

Mawston touched on these concerns, saying Samsung was likely to retake the top spot from Apple later this year. "Samsung had been the number one mobile phone vendor in the US since 2008, and it will surely be keen to recapture that title in 2013 by launching improved new models such as the rumored Galaxy S4."

Though these concerns have certainly weighed on Apple's share price, the iPhone maker can, for now, have its day in the sun.

-- Written by Chris Ciaccia in New York

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