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Business

Samsung dethrones Apple as largest smartphone maker

A renowned research company has said Samsung has managed to recapture the title of the world's largest smartphone maker from US rival Apple. But to retain the crown will be anything but plain sailing.

Hardly anyone remembers the times when cell phones were just about giving your mum a buzz. It seems fair to say that nowadays mobile phones are mostly about making a fashion statement than anything else.

This goes in particular for eternal smartphone rivals Apple and Samsung, with the South Koreans and Americans missing no opportunity to claim they've got the edge over competotors in a highly contested market that sees other competitors from China, India and elsewhere gaining ground fast.

A mixed bag of news from Seoul reached consumers Wednesday as Samsung Electronics reported a 38.9-percent drop in net profit for the first quarter year-on-year, with bottom-line earnings coming in at 4.6 trillion won ($4.3 billion, 3.9 billion euros) for the January to March period. And that was the company's fourth straight quarterly decline in net profit.

Analysts still maintained the South Koreans might slowly be turning the corner now as operating profit was up by 13.1 percent from the fourth quarter of 2014.

Wearing the crown again

But the headline likely to stick for a bit longer was provided Wednesday by research firm Strategy Analytics, which said that according to their calculations Samsung had been able to recapture the number-one spot as the world's biggest smartphone maker by volume in the first quarter, thus dethroning its fiercest rival Apple.

Strategy Analytics reported Samsung sold 83.2 million smartphones globally in the first three months of the year, reaching a market share of 24 percent. That was down from 31 percent a year earlier, but way better than Apple's 18 percent for the same period.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Laura Lean/PA Wire

The Galaxy S6 Edge boasts a screen that curves around both edges of the device

"Samsung continued to face challenges in Asia and elsewhere, but its global performance has stabilized sufficiently well this quarter to overtake Apple," Strategy Analytics Executive Director Neil Mawston said in a statement.

But it's not only about the firm's rivalry with Apple. The Seoul-based company knows it needs to redouble its efforts to avoid losing even more market share to Chinese budget smartphone producers such as Xiaomi and Lenovo.

Samsung's galactic year?

With the

launch of its Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge

on April 10, Samsung may have found an appropriate instrument to keep competitors at bay.

Both models have been performing well on world markets, the vice head of communications at Samsung's mobile unit, Park Jin-Young maintains.

"I think the S6 will become the best-selling model among the Galaxy S series," Park said, conceding that the company was struggling to meet bigger-than expected demand for the Edge.

No matter how competition in the mobile phone market may play out in the future, Samsung can hardly be criticized for holding back resources. Samsung reported Wednesday it had invested the equivalent of $6.7 billion in building or expanding production infrastructure in the first quarter alone, with the bulk of it going into semiconductor plants.

Until the release of smartphone sales data for the second quarter, the ball is back in Apple's court.

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