[SEOUL] Apple caught up with Samsung as the world's biggest smartphone vendor in the fourth quarter of 2014, thanks to booming sales of its new iPhone 6, market researcher Strategy Analytics said Thursday.
Apple reported a record net profit of US$18 billion in the quarter, on the back of what the California tech titan described as "staggering" iPhone 6 sales - especially in China.
Its South Korean rival, on the other hand, has seen its quarterly profits slashed in 2014, in the face of escalating competition at every price point.
Strategy Analytics said Apple shipped 74.5 million handsets in the fourth quarter, compared to 51 million a year ago.
Samsung logged the same number of shipments, which in its case marked a downturn from 86 million the previous year.
The turnaround saw Samsung's share of the global smartphone market tumble from 30 per cent to 19.6 per cent, on a par with Apple.
Samsung, which belatedly entered the market pioneered by Apple, had dethroned the US firm as the world's top smartphone vendor in the third quarter of 2011.
The South Korean electronics giant then went on to replace Nokia as the global leader in overall mobile phone sales in the first quarter of 2012.
Over the past year, Samsung's market-leading position has been under siege from a resurgent Apple and rising Chinese rivals like Xiaomi.
The South Korean company, whose latest Galaxy S5 smartphone received a lukewarm reception, posted its first drop in annual net profits in three years on Thursday.
"Samsung continues to face intense competition from Apple at the higher-end of the smartphone market, from Huawei in the middle-tiers and from Xiaomi and others at the entry-level," Strategy Analytics said in a statement.
"Samsung may soon have to consider taking over rivals, such as Blackberry, in order to revitalise growth this year," it added.
Earlier this month, Samsung denied media reports that it was seeking a takeover of the struggling Canadian handset maker.
Taking 2014 as a whole, Samsung still remained the top smartphone vendor with total shipments of 317.2 million units, followed by Apple's 192.7 million.