Michael Santo

A new report by market research group IDC supports an earlier analyst report, asserting that Samsung has, at least for now, taken possession of the top spot in global smartphone market share.

IDC estimated that Samsung had shipped 23.6 million smartphones in Q3 2011, giving it exactly 20 percent of the smartphone market. That market share shows Samsung's sharp rise since Q3 2010, when it had only 8.8 percent market share, less than half it's current number.

It's not just Android, either. Samsung's own Bada platform continues to gain traction.

Meanwhile, Apple, perhaps hurt as consumers waited for the next generation iPhone, sold nearly 17.1 million units, dropping it from first to second with 14.5 percent of the smartphone market (a drop from 17 percent in Q3 2010).

Earlier, Milton Keynes of Strategy Analytics said that Samsung shipped 27.8 million smartphones in the same quarter, or 23.8 percent of the market, while Apple’s 17.1 million shipments represented 14.6 percent of market share.

There is a considerable difference between Keynes' and IDC's numbers for Samsung, and that's likely because those are estimates, while Apple likes to publish its numbers.

It's the estimate vs. published numbers, and "shipped" vs. "sold" that continues to roil arguments about who exactly has the largest smartphone market share.

Nokia and RIM continued to slide. Nokia slid from 32 percent in Q3 2010 to 14.2 percent in the same period in 2011. RIM dropped from 15.0 percent to 10.0 percent.

HTC, meanwhile, crept up a notch to No. 4 smartphone manufacturer, vaulting over RIM. The company now has a 10.8 percent market share, vs. Q3 2010's 7.1 percent.

Overall, the worldwide smartphone market grew 42.6 percent year-over-year in Q3 2011. IDC said that vendors shipped 118.1 million units in the quarter, compared to 82.8 million units in Q3 2010. However, IDC had forecast of 49.1 percent for the quarter, and the number was lower than the year-over-year growth shown in Q2 2011, of 66.7 percent.

While Samsung now owns the top position in smartphones globally, that could change quickly. With the launch of the iPhone 4S, Apple could easily leap back into the number one slot.

In contrast, Samsung has recently entered the U.S. market with its Galaxy S II devices, and will soon ship its Galaxy Nexus smartphone, the first with Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0).