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Samsung, Apple lead smartphone sales projected to be 1 billion units by 2016

by Phil Hornshaw

The mobile industry loves to crunch its numbers and make big, sweeping projections about where sales will be a few years down the road. Today’s numbers come from market analyst IMS Research, and they appropriately bullish.

IMS says that it sees smartphones topping one billion units sold in 2016, a huge number but not necessarily insane if the growth of the last couple of years continues during the next five. Smartphone sales are already projected to hit 420 million before the end of 2011, IMS says, according to a story form Boy Genius Report.

Samsung rules Android

The report finds that Samsung (005930.KS) is making the largest gains of all the companies creating devices for Google’s (GOOG) Android platform, accounting for 13 percent of all handset sales in the first quarter of 2011 and leaping up from only 3 percent of sales this time last year.

But Samsung is lagging behind Apple (AAPL) and its iPhone, which accounts for 19 percent of all smartphone sales this year and has climbed up from 16 percent in 2010. Apple recently posted its earnings report for the second quarter of 2011, where it showed record iPhone sales at 20.4 million. Samsung has been doing well, too, and offers lots of Android devices to make its growth pretty healthy.

It’s not all peachy for Samsung, though. Microsoft recently issued a licensing fee of $15 per smartphone that Samsung sells, which could have an impact on the company’s bottom line, given how many phones it has been shipping. And it the company has been dealing with Apple in another patent dispute, in which Apple is attempting to block the South Korean company’s devices from being imported to the U.S. over claims that Samsung has copied Apple’s devices.

While Apple and Samsung won big in Q2 2011, there were some big losers, as well, according to IMS. Nokia (NOK) dropped from 40 percent of the market in Q1 2010 to nearly half that – 24 percent – this year. Research In Motion, the maker of BlackBerry, had a less staggering decline, going from 20 percent last year to 15 percent this year.

When it comes to the Android sphere, it seems that Samsung is doing something right. It doesn’t have the pseudo-religious super-following that Apple does, but its many Android devices are helping the smartphone maker keep pace in the ever-expanding mobile market.