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Galaxy S III is a global hit: 20 million sold (and counting)

No single Android(s goog) phone has outsold the iPhone(s aapl) over time, although one is making a strong showing. Samsung announced on Thursday that its Galaxy S III has crossed the 20 million sales mark in the 100 days since launching in May. This follows a recent report that at three of the four big U.S. carriers, the Galaxy S III did outsell the iPhone 4S in August, although consumers are likely waiting for the next iPhone, expected to be unveiled on Sept. 12.

Samsung doesn’t specify if the sales figure is actual end-user sales or sales to carriers, i.e.: shipments, but all signs point to success. While Samsung should be happy with its achievement, this sales figure may speak more to the gap between Android and iOS as a whole. Back in 2008 when the first Android phone launched, it was inferior to the iPhone by many accounts.

It wasn’t until Google introduced the second major iteration of Android in conjunction with the first Motorola Droid handset that Android started to noticeably improve. Fast forward to today and Android 4.1, also known as Jelly Bean, could be considered on par with iOS, if not ahead in some respects.

iOS vs AndroidClearly, Apple has continued to innovate and as someone who has used the iOS 6 beta for several months, there’s much to like here. And it’s a safe bet that Apple will improve the iPhone hardware with its next phone, which is expected to have a taller display, thinner profile and likely support for faster LTE networks. The point here isn’t to suggest that Android, or even the Galaxy S III, is “better” than the iPhone.

But the old argument of lumping total Android handset sales to compare against one single model of iPhone being unfair is exactly that: old. With strong hardware improvements, innovative software features, and one handset model for 150 different markets around the world, Samsung’s Galaxy S III should be considered the first true contender to Apple’s iPhone. It took years to get there and the next iPhone will surely sell tens of millions of units in a short period of time, but the gap between these two racehorses is drawing closer.

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