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Apple iPhone 5 Takes Smartphone Crown From Samsung

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Despite the dark cloud hovering over Apple (AAPL - Get Report), the tech giant received good news Wednesday, courtesy of Strategy Analytics.

The tech-research firm reports that Apple shipped an estimated 27.4 million iPhone 5s during the fourth quarter, taking the smartphone crown from Samsung's Galaxy S3 and accounting for 13% of all smartphones sold globally. Some 17.4 million iPhone 4S were sold, up from 16.2 million in the previous quarter.

Samsung shipped 15.4 million Galaxy S3s, down from 18 million in the third quarter, when the device topped the smartphone charts.

Together, Apple's iPhone 5 and iPhone 4S accounted for one in five of all smartphones sold globally during the fourth quarter, according to Strategy Analytics.

Strategy Analytics' numbers, however, aren't exactly out of the blue. Speaking during Apple's recent fiscal first-quarter conference call, CEO Tim Cook noted an all-time quarterly record for iPhone sales, driven by the iPhone 5 and strong demand in China.

Clearly, Apple's latest iPhone has continued the company's run of smartphone success.

"A rich touchscreen design, extensive distribution across dozens of countries, and generous operator subsidies have been among the main causes of the iPhone 5's success," wrote Neil Mawston, Strategy Analytics' executive director of Wireless Device Strategies, in a blog post.

The analyst says Samsung is plotting to regain smartphone supremacy. "Samsung will surely be keen to introduce its rumored Galaxy S4 upgrade in the coming weeks to fight back against Apple's popular iPhone range," he wrote.

In the meantime, the spotlight is firmly on Apple's iPhone. On Wednesday, for example, The Financial Times reported that Apple's manufacturing partner Foxconn has implemented a recruitment freeze at its Chinese factories as it slows production of the iPhone 5.

Foxconn, however, says the recruitment slowdown has nothing to do with the iPhone 5. "Due to an unprecedented rate of return of employees following the Chinese New Year holiday compared to years past, our company has decided to temporarily slow down our recruitment process," a spokeswoman said in an email to TheStreet. "This action is not related to any single customer and any speculation to the contrary is false and inaccurate."

Speaking at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference last week, Cook predicted that the smartphone market will double to $1.4 billion in the next few years.

"People love to upgrade their phones regularly -- I see a market that's great to be in," he said, adding that the iPhone is still only available to 50% of the world's subscribers.

Shares of the Cupertino, Calif.-based firm slipped 2.1% to $450.27 on Wednesday, surpassing the Nasdaq's decline of 0.66%.

-- Written by James Rogers in New York

>To submit a news tip, send an email to: tips@thestreet.com.

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