Apple overtook Samsung in the global smartphone market in the fourth quarter of 2014 driven by the success of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, according to figures from Gartner.
This is the first time that Samsung has been knocked off the number one spot since 2012.
Samsung's sales fell by over 10 million units to 73 million in the final quarter of 2014, compared with 83 million in the same period in 2013.
The sales slump saw Samsung's smartphone market share fall from 29.5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013 to 19.9 percent a year later.
Conversly Apple posted sales of 75 million units sold in the quarter, an increase of 25 million over the 50 million a year earlier. Apple now holds 20.4 percent of the world's smartphone market, up from 17.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013.
Strong sales of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are driving Apple's success in the market, continuing the trend seen in Gartner's research conducted for the third quarter of 2014.
Gartner indicated that demand for the larger screen iPhone 6 Plus drove sales in the US and China, growing at 88 percent and 56 percent for the quarter respectively, which Gartner said offers the market a "strong alternative to Android".
Roberta Cozza, research director at Gartner, explained that Apple dominates the premium phone market and Chinese brands are putting pressure on Samsung by offering "quality hardware at lower prices".
Cozza said that Samsung will need to adopt a new strategy if it wants to better compete against Apple.
"It is through a solid ecosystem of apps, content and services unique to Samsung devices that Samsung can secure more loyalty and longer-term differentiation at the high end of the market," she said.
Growing global market
Samsung remains the leader in smartphone sales for the whole of 2014, shifting 307 million units, an increase of over eight million compared with 299 million in 2013.
This gave Samsung 24.7 percent of the smartphone market last year, while Apple's share stands at 15.4 percent.
Lenovo took third place with 81 million smartphones in 2014, and Huawei and LG took the fourth and fifth positions with 68 million and 57 million respectively.
Total smartphone sales for the fourth quarter of 2014 showed healthy growth over the same period in 2013, rising from 282 million to 367 million units.
Over 1.2 billion smartphones were sold throughout 2014, up from 969 million in 2013, indicating significant potential for smartphone manufacturers to grow sales on a global scale.
Android remains the dominant smartphone operating system, holding 80 percent of the market driven by over a billion smartphone sales.
Other operating systems lag a long way behind. Apple's iOS holds 15 percent of the market and Windows a mere 2.8 percent.
Samsung revealed the Galaxy S6 at MWC, which it no doubt hopes will give Apple a run for its money.
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