iPhone 6 pushes Apple to top spot, tied with Samsung

Apple has tied with Samsung to become the number one smartphone vendor in the world, in a major blow to the South Korean electronics giant, a report revealed.

Both companies shipped 74.5 million smartphones in the fourth quarter of 2014, which marked a decline from the previous quarter for Samsung, but a surge in sales for Apple, according to the report by Strategy Analytics.

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Apple's 46 percent rise in shipments from the third quarter was buoyed by sales of the larger-screen iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.

"Apple's new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus models are proving wildly popular in China, United States and Europe. Apple tied with Samsung to become the world's largest smartphone vendor for the first time since Q4 2011," Neil Mawston, executive director at Strategy Analytics, said in a press release.

In contrast, Samsung suffered a 13 percent decline in smartphone shipments from 86 million units in the third quarter of 2014.

Across last year as a whole, Samsung sold 2.6 million fewer smartphones than 2013, while Apple shipped 39.3 million more.

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Xiaomi pressure

This is Samsung's biggest problem

Samsung has been under intense pressure in the smartphone market, particularly in China, where it was knocked off the top spot by upstart competitor Xiaomi. It has been unable to take hold of the premium category that Apple dominates, while Chinese players have been eating away at its mid-to-low-end products.

"Samsung continues to face intense competition from Apple at the higher-end of the smartphone market, from Huawei in the middle-tiers, and from Xiaomi and others at the entry-level. Samsung may soon have to consider taking over rivals, such as Blackberry, in order to revitalize growth this year," Mawston said.

Samsung had a 24.7 percent global market share in 2014, while Apple controlled 15 percent of the market.

The South Korean electronics giant reported fourth quarter profits of 5.3 trillion won ($4.88 billion), a 36 percent slump from a year earlier. In contrast, Apple reported blockbuster fiscal first quarter earnings on Tuesday that beat Wall Street's estimates.

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Android dominant

After Apple and Samsung, Lenovo was the third biggest vendor, according to Strategy Analytics. Lenovo, which bough Motorola a year ago, was followed by Huawei, highlighting the rise of Chinese smartphone players on the global stage over the past year.

Overall in 2014, nearly 1.3 billion smartphones were shipped, an almost 30 percent increase from the year before.

Android remained the dominant mobile operating system, Strategy Analytics said. The Google-based software had an 81.2 percent market share in 2014.

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