Apple now ships more smartphones than Samsung, if you ask Gartner

When we last checked in on the battle for the top spot in the smartphone market, Apple and Samsung were neck and neck. If you ask Gartner, though, it isn't quite so evenly matched. The analyst group estimates that Apple managed to edge past Samsung in the fourth quarter of 2014, shipping 74.8 million phones to Samsung's 73 million. That isn't exactly a cavernous gap, but it's been a long time since any research firm unambiguously declared Apple the biggest vendor -- over three years, if you're wondering. Having said this, the changing of the guard isn't completely surprising. Apple had two brand new iPhones in the fall to goose its sales, while Samsung was grappling with both surging Chinese competitors (including chart rivals Lenovo, Huawei and Xiaomi) and a flagship phone that was getting long in the tooth.

It's important to note that Samsung still shipped the most smartphones for the whole year, pushing out a whopping 307.6 million to Apple's 191.4 million. However, the Gartner data shows just how much of the bloom has left Samsung's rose in recent months. The Korean corporation went from being the clear frontrunner as 2014 began to losing that crown (or sharing it) just a year later. As such, it's no wonder that the Galaxy S6 is such a big departure from Samsung's status quo. The company is still making billions in profit every quarter, but that money might disappear without drastic action.

Photo by Will Lipman.

Gartner smartphone market share data for Q4 2014 and all year