The fight isn't over yet.

But Apple's surge in China means its position is as strong as ever.

By Geoffrey Smith
May 28, 2015

Apple Inc.’s AAPL reign as the world’s top-selling smartphone maker didn’t last long.

According to new research by Gartner, Samsung took back the top spot in the first quarter of the year, selling 81.1 million units compared to the Cupertino-based giant’s 60.2 million.

Samsung managed to juice its sales by 11% quarter-on-quarter, as its new Galaxy models gained traction.

But a number of factors highlighted by Gartner suggest the longer-term trend still seems to favor Apple. For one thing, Apple became the biggest smartphone vendor in China in the first quarter, with the iPhone 6 driving it to a 73% gain in year-on-year sales.

That put it ahead of local upstart Xiaomi for the first time, as well as Samsung, which had been top dog in China until last year. With that surge, China has become Apple’s biggest national market for the first time, overtaking the U.S..

 

“Appleā€™s extension into more Asian markets helped it close the gap with Samsung globally. In the same period last year, there was a difference of more than 40 million units with Samsung; this difference has been halved, within one year, to just over 20 million units,” said Gartner analyst Anshul Gupta.

Overall, worldwide sales of smartphones rose 19% on the year to 336 million. Samsung’s market share of 24.2% was down over 6 percentage points from a year ago, while Apple’s rose 2.6 percentage points to 17.9%. Gupta said he expected Samsung’s decline to slow this year thanks to its new S6 phones and the positive take-up for the Galaxy Alpha.

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