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A few weeks back Apple (s AAPL) told us it sold 20.34 million iPhones during the second quarter. Now IDC says that Apple’s deluge of smartphone sales confirms it as the No. 1 seller of smartphones in the world. But the quarterly report, released on Thursday, shows something else too: While Samsung came in second place with an estimated 17 million units sold, the Korean electronics maker saw far greater growth than Apple did from year to year in its smartphone sales. IPhone sales grew 141 percent from the second quarter last year to the second quarter of this year, but Samsung’s growth was more than double that: a whopping 380 percent. And it shows that the two are likely to be neck and neck for some time to come.
To be sure, it’s not a simple apples-to-apples comparison: Apple sells just the iPhone, loaded with iOS. Samsung has dozens of smartphone models, powered by three different operating systems: Android,(s goog) Bada, and Windows Phone 7.(s msft) But there is one particular phone that’s really striking a chord with buyers. Here’s what IDC found as the keys to Samsung’s rise in the past year:
Samsung realized the largest year-over-year growth of any vendor among the top five, and key to its continued success was the global popularity of its flagship Galaxy S smartphones. What originally began as a series of high-end smartphones has proliferated well into the mass-market, but has not strayed too far from its high-end roots. Moreover, its steady cadence of device releases and updates has kept Samsung’s smartphones well out in front of the competition. Samsung’s bada-powered smartphones likewise grew, while demand for its Windows Phone smartphones has cooled off.
When it comes to Apple, it’s not just the iPhone 4 that’s been selling well. While there hasn’t been a new iPhone released in over a year, IDC found that people continue to buy previous models at a discount.
“Demand has been so strong that even models that have been out for one or two years are still being sought out,” said Ramon Llamas, a senior IDC analyst. “With an expected refresh later this year, volumes are set to reach higher levels.”
And it’s generally good news for the rest of the field too. IDC says it expects the smartphone market to grow 55 percent in 2011 over the previous year’s levels. The exception in the top five is Nokia,(s NOK) whose problems have been well documented. The former smartphone king dropped below 20 million smartphones shipped for the first time since the fall of 2009.