Sony breaks into the smartphone top three

Sony has jumped into the top five among handset manufacturers for the first time since 2006 to stand above HTC and RIM in world popularity rankings, according to Canalys's latest figures, published Thursday.

The figures on smartphone sales reveal that in the third quarter of 2012 some 173.7 million handsets were shipped, a 44% year-on-year increase, and there were no surprises about which companies held the top two positions. Samsung was number one with 55.5 million handsets shipped, followed by Apple with 26.9 million.

New handsets help Sony

Thanks to a refocused marketing campaign and its strongest list of new handsets -- including the Xperia P -- for a long time, Sony managed to move up to third place, selling 8.8 million handsets and claiming a 5.1% market share -- equal to a 41.1% increase in growth year-on-year. It will be interesting to see if the handset maker's association with the latest James Bond film, Skyfall, will give it a further popularity boost over the final quarter of the year.

The top five was rounded off with HTC, which saw its share fall by 36.1% with 8.4 million shipments, and RIM, which, despite its well publicized struggles, still managed to sell 7.3 million handsets in the third quarter, giving it a 4.2% market share.

LG will be expected to move further up the table in the next quarter following the launch of its Google-branded LG Nexus smartphone, which went on sale in November and has been universally praised by critics and consumers alike. However, doubts remain as to whether or not Google's decision to make the handset 3G rather than 4G-compatible will influence sales.

Samsung stays ahead in China

According to Canalys, the Asia Pacific region accounted for over 53% of worldwide smartphone sales, particularly China, which passed through the 50 million mark over the quarter. And while Samsung retained its lead in China, its share has been under pressure from rising local Chinese vendors, such as Yulong Computer Telecommunication Scientific.

As well as handset popularity, smartphone usage varies drastically from market to market, influenced by the types of contract, data speeds and data allowances. The US is still the biggest market for apps worldwide, responsible for 45% of all Apple iPhone app downloads and related revenue compared with just 11% in China.

Separate data from IDC published on November 2 revealed that 75% of all smartphones shipped (136 million) in the quarter ran Android compared with 14.9% that run Apple's iOS and 2% that run Windows Phone 7 or Windows Mobile.

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