Samsung's Smartphones Widen Lead Over Apple's iPhone

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) - For the very first time, smartphones are outselling "feature phones" worldwide. And, when it comes to smartphones, Samsung is still outselling Apple ( AAPL) phones, but now by an even wider margin.

These tidbits of insightful data come from IDC, the International Data Corporation in their just released "Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker report.

Overall, total global mobile phones sales grew a meager 4% in the first quarter of 2013 (418.6 million vs. 402.4 million in 2012). The industry pushed out 483.2 million phones in the last quarter of 2012.

But, it's the phones themselves which are the big story. Now, more people are buying smartphones rather than "feature phones," devices with, ironically, fewer features. The term "feature phone" is preferable to "dumb" phones" - or worse. Smartphones now account for 51.6% of mobile phone sales worldwide.

The other big story here is that Samsung is widening its lead over Apple in smartphone shipments. Samsung handsets running Google's ( GOOG) Android OS now account for nearly a third (32.7%) of all global smartphone sales - up from 28.8% a year ago while Apple slipped from 23.0% a year ago to 17.3% in the first quarter. Filling out the smartphone "top 5" list are LG (4.8%) and two Chinese companies Huawei (4.6%) and ZTE (4.2%).

When you add features phones into the mix, Samsung's numbers are just as impressive. Counting sales of all mobile phones Samsung now controls 27.5% of the market, Nokia ( NOK) is in second place with 14.8% (mostly feature phones rather than Microsoft ( MSFT) Windows-based handsets), Apple doesn't make feature phones so they placed third with 8.9%, LG came in fourth place with 3.7% and ZTE was fifth with 3.2%.

Noticeably missing from either list are perennial leaders Blackberry ( BBRY)/Research in Motion and HTC. Both companies are in the process of releasing (terrific) new smartphone designs in hopes of turning around their corporate fortunes. They have a long way to go to catch Samsung.

--Written by Gary Krakow in New York.

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Gary Krakow is TheStreet's senior technology correspondent.