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Apple Overtakes Samsung as the World's No. 1 Smartphone Seller The Cupertino, Calif. tech titan has stolen the South Korean electronic giant's thunder in the smartphone sales war for the first time since 2011. But upstart Xiaomi might have the most to boast about.

By Kim Lachance Shandrow

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

REUTERS | Jason Lee

Apple has stolen Samsung's crown as the world's largest smartphone manufacturer, according to a new report from Gartner.

The IT market research firm says the Cupertino, Calif. tech titan sold 74.83 million iPhones worldwide in the fourth quarter, narrowly inching past Samsung's 73.03 million phones sold in the same period. The news marks the first time Apple, fresh off reporting a record-shattering fourth-quarter profit of $18 billion (reportedly the highest ever disclosed by a public company) has snatched the top spot from Samsung in the heated global smartphone sales war since 2011.

Apple's enormously successful September 2014 launch of its large-screened iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus models allowed the company to capture a 20.4 percent market share in the fourth quarter, Gartner reports. Samsung came in a close second, with a 19.9 percent market share, down 10 percent from the same time last year.

Related: 5 Things I Learned About Successful Startups From Steve Jobs

Meanwhile, Beijing-based Lenovo clocked in as the world's third largest smartphone seller with a 6.6 percent share of the market. Up-and-coming Chinese electronics contenders Huawei and Xiaomi rounded out the pack in fourth and fifth place respectively. But it's promising 4-year-old upstart Xiaomi, the "Apple of the East," that might have more to boast about than Apple or Samsung overall, having tripled its sales from a year ago. These vendors, along with others, helped smartphone sales surpass one billion units sold in 2014.

While Apple's smartphone sales are consistently robust in the U.S. and China, Gartner researchers pointed out that the company still has a ways to go in emerging markets.

"Apple's growth in emerging markets really is limited unless they come down-market with a new phone," Gartner principal research analyst Tuong Nguyen told USA Today, "and they haven't done that with any product to date."

Nguyen says Samsung's speciality is "rolling out hard and fast with features that people have shown they want, but at the same time they're not the kind of company that discovers a secret sauce."

Related: 4 Ways Samsung Says It Will Destroy Apple's iPhone 6

Samsung may not have dibs on a "secret sauce," per se, but it is gearing up for a large-scale springtime launch of the Galaxy S6 and the S6 Edge, both of which the company unveiled at this week's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

Apple will likely also launch a new product soon: the Apple Watch. On March 9, the company is expected to unveil some key details about the long-anticipated wearable at an exclusive event in San Francisco. Rumors are also revving up about the tech colossus possibly putting its own car on the road by as early as 2020.

Shares for Apple were slightly down Wednesday, hovering around $128 at the time of publication.

Related: Xiaomi, the 'Apple of the East,' Surpasses Samsung as China's Top Smartphone Seller

Kim Lachance Shandrow

Former West Coast Editor

Kim Lachance Shandrow is the former West Coast editor at Entrepreneur.com. Previously, she was a commerce columnist at Los Angeles CityBeat, a news producer at MSNBC and KNBC in Los Angeles and a frequent contributor to the Los Angeles Times. She has also written for Government Technology magazine, LA Yoga magazine, the Lowell Sun newspaper, HealthCentral.com, PsychCentral.com and the former U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. C. Everett Coop. Follow her on Twitter at @Lashandrow. You can also follow her on Facebook here

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