iPhone 4S and Galaxy Nexus
iPhone 4S and Galaxy Nexus Apple / Samsung

Apple and Samsung have already left a trail of legal paperwork in their respective wakes after suing and counter-suing each other over the past year. The two smartphone manufacturing companies know there are hundreds of millions of dollars at stake, and both have recently debuted their top-of-the-line smartphones, each with plenty of new features to enrapture consumers.

The battle has taken a new turn, it seems, because, despite Apple's grip on the high-end smartphone market, Samsung actually shipped more smartphones in the third quarter of 2011 than Apple did.

Apple shipped 17.1 million devices, while Samsung sent out 27.8 million, U.K.-based Strategy Analytics said in a statement. Samsung's popular Galaxy S2, possibly the global market's closest rival to Apple's iPhone 4S, comprised ten million of the 27.8 million devices that Samsung shipped.

Nokia sells the most mobile devices overall, but Strategy Analytics only looked at smartphone sales, and Nokia only really jumped into the high-end smartphone game on Oct. 26, when it debuted the Lumia 800. Furthermore, that phone won't even debut in the U.S. (where Nokia's other luxury device, the N9, never made it), until 2012. Likewise, Samsung's strong sales of the Galaxy S2 have mostly come from outside the U.S., because it was only available overseas until this fall. The Galaxy S2 had been a huge success for Samsung, but on Oct. 19 it unveiled the Galaxy Nexus, its next-generation smartphone featuring an all new Android operating system by Google. While that device won't launch until mid-November, it will debut in the U.S. this year, unlike Nokia's Windows Phone-based Lumia 800.

Samsung is unique because although it runs an operating system that other manufacturers also use, it has been able to consistently wow consumers with bright display screens and solid hardware.

Apple seemingly has all the advantage, however, because it is based in Silicon Valley, it spends hundreds of millions on marketing and its smartphones use an OS that is not available to other vendors. Additionally, Apple co-founder and iPhone inventor Steve Jobs died only one day after the iPhone 4S debuted, and it may have even helped the company's bottom line as the device sold 4 million units in its first weekend.

Once the Galaxy Nexus hits the states and holiday shopping totals come in, it will show whether or not Samsung has truly taken the top spot from Apple in the smartphone war.

Tell us in the comments if you love Apple products or are a die-hard Samsung user.