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Samsung, Apple dominate smartphone market, boast 90 per cent of smartphone profits

Devices from Samsung and Apple captured 50 per cent of the global smartphone market in the first quarter - and 90 per cent of its profits, according to data from ABI Research that surfaced Friday.

The real question, ABI said, is whether or not anyone can truly break away and become a strong third contender.

It was more bad news for Nokia and Windows Phone, meanwhile. "At this point in the year, Nokia will have to grow its Windows Phone business 5000 per cent in 2012 just to offset its declines in Symbian shipments," Michael Morgan, senior analyst for devices, applications & content at ABI, said in a statement.

Breaking down the numbers, Samsung shipped 43 million smartphones in the first quarter, followed by Apple at 35 million. It was a close race for (distant) third between Nokia and RIM, which saw 11.9 million and 11.1 million shipments, respectively.

Sony saw 7 million in shipments, followed by Huawei at 6.8 million and ZTE at 4.9 million.

Despite Apple's strong market position, only Samsung and Sony saw sequential growth in the first quarter, ABI said. Apple, however, released its iPhone 4S in the fourth quarter, resulting in sales of 37 million iPhones. In the first quarter, it dropped slightly to a still impressive 35 million.

At this point, smartphone penetration in North America and Europe has surpassed 50 per cent, so phone makers are turning their attention towards China. "As Nokia's market share in China plummets, the competition to fill this power vacuum has the potential to make or break smartphone OEMs currently struggling with profitability and differentiation," said Jeff Orr, practice director of devices, applications & content at ABI.