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Apple's Gain Not Enough to Offset 'Loss' to Samsung

Stocks in this article: AAPL GOOG

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Apple's (AAPL) iPhone iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c have helped boost the smartphone maker back to double-digit growth in its most important product category. Nonetheless, that hasn't been enough to allow apple to overtake Samsung.

In defense of the Cupertino, Calif-based company, the comparison isn't exactly "apples to apples." 

Research firm Gartner notes that mobile phone sales topped 455.6 million units at the end of the third-quarter. Smartphone sales accounted for 250.2 million of those units, up 46% year-over-year, as Apple sold 30.3 million iPhones during the quarter, an increase of 23% compared to the same period a year ago.

Samsung was the leader during the quarter, selling 80.3 million smartphones during the quarter, holding a 32% share of the market. The disparity in sales become clearer when you take into account the fact that Samsung, which uses Google's (GOOG) Android operating system, sells several phones while Apple only sells three versions of its iPhone.

Despite that fact, Samsung has forced Apple to slightly alter its product strategy, as Apple has worked on making its products more affordable to emerging markets, particularly China, where CEO Timothy D. Cook has placed a great deal of emphasis on.

During the quarter, Apple launched the higher-end iPhone 5s, and a more moderately priced iPhone 5c, to take advantage of price sensitive areas, such as China.

The Asia/Pacific area saw the most growth in all markets, with a 77.3% increase in smartphone sales, and 11.9% increase in mobile phone sales overall. On Apple's fourth-quarter earnings call, Cook noted Apple had a "pretty good quarter in China," but the company wants to do better, with revenue growing 6%.

"Underneath that, iPhone units were up 25% year-over-year despite significant constraints on iPhone 5s that affected the whole company," Cook said on the call. However, we were able to launch in our first round this time in China and that was a big change in the result of a close work relationship with the carriers in China and the government." This trend is likely to continue, notes Anshul Gupta, principal research analyst at Gartner, as people around the world clamor for smartphones. "Sales of feature phones continued to decline and the decrease was more pronounced in markets where the average selling price (ASP) for feature phones was much closer to the ASP affordable smartphones," Gupta said in a press release. "In markets such as China and Latin America, demand for feature phones fell significantly as users rushed to replace their old models with smartphones."

Apple's sales during the quarter could have been far greater than what they were, Gupta noted, as both the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c shipped late in the quarter. "While we saw some inventory built up for the iPhone 5c, there was good demand for iPhone 5s with stock out in many markets," he said.

It's largely expected that Apple will sell millions more iPhones in its upcoming quarter, the all-important holiday shopping season.  Apple is expecting to generate between $55 billion and $58 billion in revenue.

Rounding out the top five smartphone sellers during the quarter were Lenovo, LG and Huawei. Lenovo shipped 12.9 million units during the quarter, up 84.5% year-over-year, good for 5.1% of the market. LG shipped just over 12 million units during the quarter, accounting for 4.8% of the market, while Huawei shipped 11.7 million units, accounting for 4.7% of the market. 

The rest of the market was made up of other Android devices, with Android accounting for 81.9% of the market by operating system.  Apple's iOS held 12.1% of the market, with Microsoft's Windows Phone accounting for 3.6% of the market, and BlackBerry having just 1.8% of the market.

--Written by Chris Ciaccia in New York

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