Samsung retained its lead in India in the July-September quarter with new mid-tier 4G phones even as it fights to win back premium buyers migrating to Apple's iPhones in China. In the picture, Vice President of Product Strategy and Marketing for Samsung Electronics America, Justin Denison, speaks at the Samsung Galaxy Unpacked 2015 event in New York on Aug. 13, 2015. Reuters/Andrew Kelly

Smartphone sales in India soared during the July-September period, rising 20 percent over the same quarter last year, as India approached its festive season, Counterpoint Technology Market Research said in a release Tuesday. Samsung, which retained its lead in the Indian smartphone market, led the 4G segment too, helped by its J series mid-tier smartphones.

Sales also reversed the sluggishness of the previous two quarters to increase 12 percent from the April-June period, according to the Hong Kong-based market research company. More than one in three mobile phones shipped in India is now a smartphone.

The "Indian smartphone market is being fueled by two device trends, one is LTE (long-term evolution) and other being phablet" size, Tarun Pathak, a senior analyst at Counterpoint Research said in the release. LTE refers to the high-speed 4G wireless technology, and Phablet typically refers to smartphones with screen size of 5 inches or more.

4G smartphone sales more than doubled to 10 million units during the three-month period over the previous quarter, and rose almost 2400 percent over the year-ago period. Additionally, one in three smartphones sold during the quarter was a 4G phone and one in two smartphones sold was a phablet, the researcher said.

"We are seeing significant proliferation of LTE and larger display smartphones in sub-$100 price band as these features reach mass market level" in India, he said.

Samsung continued to lead the smartphone segment during the quarter with a market share 23.2 percent. Samsung benefitted from expanding its critical mid-tier portfolio with the launch of its J series 4G smartphones during the quarter, which drove volumes for the vendor, Counterpoint said.

Counterpoint India Q315
Smartphone market share in India at the end of the July - September 2015 period. Samsung continues to lead the market in India, with new mid-tier 4G phones priced aggressively to counter Chinese competitors. Samsung's strong offline presence is also helping it keep the inventory rolling at a time when one in three smartphones sold in India is bought online. Counterpoint Research

However, in the sub $100 segment -- the fastest-growing in the Indian smartphone market -- Samsung lost share from the previous quarter to Indian and Chinese competitors. At the more premium level, Samsung’s A series that are slim all-metal body phones with strong specs and good batteries, exemplified by the A7 and A8 phablets, helped the company at a time when the top-end Galaxy S6 sold fewer models than originally anticipated.

The A series' design language is also trickling down to the new J series, helping Samsung strengthen its position in that segment. The company's strong offline distribution has also helped Samsung drive J series shipments during the quarter, Counerpoint said.

China's Xiaomi faced strong competition from India's Micromax Informatics, which maintained its second position in the smartphone segment. Micromax, which had a 17.7 percent share of India's smartphone market at the end of the July - Sept. quarter, sold more of its "Yu" brand smartphones than all of Xiaomi's phones put together, in online sales, Counterpoint said.

The Yu phones run on a verion of the Android software called Cyanogen Mod, built by a U.S. startup of the same name, Cyanogen Inc. During the quarter, Micromax launched its cheapest Yu 4G model, Yunique, and the brand has been growing steadily, according to Counterpoint.