BOSTON: Samsung has become the world's best-selling mobile handset maker, overtaking Nokia for the number one spot during the first quarter of 2012.

New figures from Strategy Analytics, a market research firm, show that 368m phones were shipped globally during the first three months of 2012, up 3.3% from the 356m recorded during the same period the previous year.

Samsung became the market leader, raising its share from 19.3% to 25.4% over the year. By contrast, Nokia suffered a sharp decline in sales, with its share dropping from 30.4% to 22.5%.

This is the first quarter on record in which the Korean handset maker has topped the rankings.

Neil Mawston, Strategy Analytics executive director, said that Nokia was being "squeezed" by slowing sales at both ends of its product range.

"Low-end feature phone shipments in emerging markets stalled and high-end Microsoft Lumia smartphones were unable to offset the rapid decline of Nokia's legacy Symbian business," he added.

The high-end smartphone segment is also building sales, according to the report. Apple, maker of the iPhone, was found to have almost doubled its overall market share, from 5.2% to 9.5%.

Commenting on these results, Tom Kang, director at Strategy Analytics, said: "Apple [has] achieved its highest ever marketshare in the overall handset category.

"Demand for the new iPhone 4S model remained strong in the United States and Japan, while the recent launch of the 4S in China was a timely contributor to Apple's rapid growth."

Looking to the future, Strategy Analytics forecast that the release of Samsung's Galaxy S3 smartphone later in the year could consolidate the Korean firm's lead.

Data sourced from Strategy Analytics; additional content by Warc staff