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iPhone 5 Launch Props Up Apple’s Share of Smartphone Market as Samsung Keeps Rolling

Research firm IDC yesterday released its estimates of global mobile phone and smartphone shipments for the third quarter of 2012, revealing that the iPhone 5 launch helped Apple gain market share over the year-ago period that saw customers holding out for the iPhone 4S launch. The few days of iPhone 5 sales in the quarter were not, however, enough to halt a continuing slide in market share over the past few quarters as Samsung in particular has maintained very strong growth at the top of the market.

In the smartphone market, Apple’s shipments of 26.9 million iPhones were up a healthy 57.3% year-over-year, outpacing overall market growth of 45.3% and boosting Apple’s share from 13.8% to 15.0%. Apple’s share was, however, pegged at 16.9% in the prior quarter.

With Samsung still declining to release official sales number, IDC estimated the company’s smartphone shipments at 56.3 million during the quarter, doubling year-over-year and pushing Samsung’s leading share of the worldwide market to 31.3%. And with Nokia’s share of the smartphone market imploding as it tries to reinvent itself on the back of Windows Phone 8, no other manufacturer besides Samsung and Apple has a market share above 8%.

iPhone shipments finished the quarter nearly flat from the previous quarter, reaching a total of 26.9 million units. Although the iPhone 5 was only on the market for one week in 3Q12, the aggressive rollout of the device resulted in more than 5 million iPhones sold in the first weekend of availability, which helped buoy Apple’s shipment totals. iPhone sales weren’t dampened by the introduction of its Maps software, which was not completely ready for use. Instead, the iPhone 5′s larger screen and 4G LTE connectivity generated user interest. What remains to be seen is how Apple will fare during the holiday quarter, when the iPhone 5 will be available in more countries worldwide.

In the overall mobile phone market, Apple continues to ride the smartphone boom with its 57.3% annual unit growth easily outpacing the overall market’s 2.4% growth. The performance enabled Apple to take 6.1% of the mobile phone market during the quarter, up from 3.9% in the year-ago quarter but down from 6.4% in the previous quarter.

With Apple providing guidance yesterday of $52 billion in total company revenue for the current quarter, it seems that the company is unsurprisingly projecting a significant boost in iPhone sales numbers as the iPhone 5 sees a full quarter of availability in the early launch markets and Apple works to extend the device to its goal of 100 countries by the end of the quarter.