Analysis: Apple juggernaut to see more China gains
A man runs behind the building of Apple's flagship store in Beijing's Sanlitun Area, which is one of four official Apple stores in China, July 22, 2011. Reuters

Apple took the crown to become the No. 1 smartphone vender in the world, besting the long-time leader Nokia and aggressive Asian rival Samsung in the second quarter.

With its premium offerings, Apple has held the top position as for revenue and profits, but the second quarter marked the first time the company shipped more units than competitors.

"Now, just four years after the release of the original iPhone, Apple has become the world's largest smartphone vendor by volume with 18 percent market share," said Strategy Analytics analyst Alex Spektor. "Apple's growth remained strong as it expanded distribution worldwide, particularly in China and Asia."

South-Korea's Samsung Electronics has emerged as the only company that could challenge Apple, after Nokia fell to No. 3.

The company reported its earnings Friday morning, and while not breaking out unit volume, Strategy Analytics estimates Samsung shipments grew 520 percent annually, for 17 percent global smartphone market share.

Much of this growth could be attributed to its latest flagship smartphone, the S2.

Overall Samsung shipped 19.2 million total units for the quarter, slightly less than Apple's 20.3 million units shipped of the iPhone, announced last week.

The big loser this quarter was the previous mobile industry stalwart Nokia.

"Having become the first ever vendor to ship 100 million smartphones in a single year during 2010, long-time leader Nokia has slipped two places in our rankings in Q2 2011,"Spektor explained. "The vendor's 15 percent global smartphone market share is less than half of what it was just one year earlier, as the industry awaits Nokia's pending transition to Windows Phone 7."

Generally, the environment was good for the industry, as global smartphone shipments grew an impressive 76 percent annually to reach a record 110 million units in the second quarter of 2011.