According to the latest research from our Handset Country Share Tracker (CST) service, Apple’s iPhone 5 overtook Samsung’s Galaxy S3 to become the world’s best-selling smartphone model for the first time ever in the fourth quarter of 2012. A rich touchscreen, extensive distribution and generous operator subsidies have propelled the iPhone 5 to the top spot.

Apple’s iPhone 5 smartphone model shipped an estimated 27.4 million units worldwide during the fourth quarter of 2012. The iPhone 5 captured an impressive 13 percent share of all smartphones shipped globally and it has become the world’s best-selling smartphone model for the first time ever. A rich touchscreen design, extensive distribution across dozens of countries, and generous operator subsidies have been among the main causes of the iPhone 5’s success. In addition to the iPhone 5, Apple shipped an estimated 17.4 million iPhone 4S units for 8 percent smartphone share globally in Q4 2012. Apple’s iPhone 5 and iPhone 4S are currently the world’s two most popular smartphone models.

Apple’s iPhone 5 and iPhone 4S together accounted for 1 in 5 of all smartphones shipped worldwide in Q4 2012. This was an impressive performance, given the iPhone portfolio’s premium pricing. We estimate Samsung’s Galaxy S3 was the world’s third best-selling smartphone model and it shipped 15.4 million units globally, capturing 7 percent share in the fourth quarter of 2012. Samsung’s Galaxy S3 has long proven wildly popular with consumers and operators across North America, Europe and Asia. However, global demand for the Galaxy S3 appears to have peaked and Samsung will surely be keen to introduce its rumored Galaxy S4 upgrade in the coming weeks to fight back against Apple’s popular iPhone range.

Exhibit 1: Global Smartphone Shipments & Marketshare by Model in Q4 2012 [1]

Global Smartphone Shipments by Model (Millions of Units)
Q3 '12
Q4 '12
Apple iPhone 5
6.0
27.4
Apple iPhone 4S
16.2
17.4
Samsung Galaxy S3
18.0
15.4
Others
132.6
156.8
Total
172.8
217.0
 
 
 
Global Smartphone Marketshare by Model (% of Total)
Q3 '12
Q4 '12
Apple iPhone 5
3.5%
12.6%
Apple iPhone 4S
9.4%
8.0%
Samsung Galaxy S3
10.4%
7.1%
Others
76.7%
72.3%
Total
100.0%
100.0%

[1] Numbers are rounded. Updated total. The Samsung Galaxy S3 total does not include the S3 Mini, S2, S or any other related models. The iPhone 5 total does not include the iPhone 4S, iPhone 4 or any other related models. The iPhone 4S total does not include the iPhone 5, iPhone 4 or any other related models.