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The Galaxy S3 is the world’s best selling smartphone, but for how long?

Research into global smartphone sales for the July to September period of 2012 has revealed that the world’s number one smartphone was the Samsung Galaxy S3, knocking the Apple iPhone 4S into second position.

The report comes from research firm Strategy Analytics, and it puts the Galaxy S3 in first place with 18 million devices sold globally, and the iPhone 4S trailing with 16.2 million sold. In third place it’s the iPhone 5 with 6 million sales.

So, its a fanfare for Samsung, a company well on its way to beating Apple in the battle for smartphone supremacy. But is it? Well, as a headline, it is indeed good news for Samsung, but the sales from the third quarter of 2012 tell only a percentage of the story.

Samsung released the Galaxy S3 at the beginning of May 2012, spreading it to as many networks and countries as possible. In the slightly truncated second quarter results, it shifted 5.4 million phones.

But take a look at the iPhone 4S’s performance. The 4S went on sale in October 2011, and still sold 19.4 million in the second quarter, and then 16.2 this quarter. Not bad for a phone that was a fairly unremarkable evolution of the previous model, that has been on sale for, now at least, more than a year.

Strategy Analytics Global Smartphone Sales

These past couple of months have also been filled with anticipation over the iPhone 5, which then arrived at the tail end of September, and it still managed to sell more than the Galaxy S3 did in its opening weeks, and in a shorter time too.

Many potential iPhone 4S buyers decided to wait for the iPhone 5 in the run up to its release, which explains the drop off in 4S sales, and in effect, allowed Samsung to swoop in and grab the “world’s best selling smartphone” crown.

The question is, can it retain its crown in the all-important Christmas period between October and December? Strategy Analytics doesn’t think so, and expects Apple to “soon reclaim the title.”

The Galaxy S3 unquestionably deserves to top the charts, but the figures also highlight the struggle it faces to maintain that position over a longer period of time.