• Samsung sold 18 million S3 models in the third quarter, compared with iPhone 4S sales of 16.2 million
  • Apple expected to return to spot spot next quarter following the release of the iPhone 5

Samsung’s Galaxy S3 has become the world’s best-selling smartphone model for the last quarter, pushing aside Apple iPhone.

Apple has dominated the chart for more than two years, research firm Strategy Analytics said.

It claims Samsung sold 18 million S3 models in the third quarter, compared with iPhone 4S sales of 16.2 million.

The Samsung Galaxy SIII smartphone which became the world’s best-selling smartphone model last quarter

Strong sales of the flagship Galaxy S3 – which comes with a large 4.8 inch touchscreen – helped Samsung post a record $7.3 billion operating profit in the July-September quarter.

Apple customers were also believed to be waiting for the release of the iPhone 5, which is expected to propel Apple back to the top spot.

‘Samsung’s Galaxy S3 has proven wildly popular with consumers and operators across North America, Europe and Asia,’ said analyst Neil Mawston.

However, he believes the new iPhone 5 would reclaim the top spot for Apple in the current quarter.

The news comes just days after Samsung announced it has sold more than 30 million of its flagship Galaxy S III smartphones in about five months, making it one of the fastest selling smartphones in the world.

Samsung, the world’s biggest mobile phone maker, launched the smartphone at the end of May, months before competitors began shipping the latest versions of their top phones.

When Apple Inc. unveiled the iPhone 5 in September, Samsung launched an advertising campaign poking fun at the new iPhone.

Samsung’s Galaxy S3 smartphone which has now sold over 30m million units.

The South Korean firm said the S III is selling at a much faster rate than its predecessor announced a year ago, the Galaxy S II.

The S II took 14 months to hit 30 million sales.

Sales of the Galaxy Note II, which fills a market niche between smartphones and tablets, surpassed 3 million in 37 days, Samsung said last week.

Apple has not released comparable sales figures for its iPhone 5, but said it sold more than five million of its new iPhones in three days when it launched.

The runaway demand for high-end smartphones fueled record profits at Samsung in recent quarters while other consumer electronics firms were hit by the global economic downturn that dented demand for TVs and personal computers.

Samsung, which also makes TVs, home appliances, semiconductors and display panels, got almost 70 percent of its third-quarter operating profit from the division that makes mobile devices, cameras and computers.

Nomura Financial Investment in Seoul forecasts that Samsung will sell 67 million smartphones in the October-December quarter.

The S3 has recently been updated to the latest version of Android

That would be about 10 million units more than Samsung’s smartphone sales in the previous quarter.

Samsung does not disclose its quarterly smartphone sales figures, but analysts and research firms say the company sold a record 56-58 million smartphones in July-September.

Nomura, which is more optimistic about Samsung’s prospects than other forecasters, says Samsung’s mobile communications business will post 5 percent growth in fourth quarter profit from the third quarter, thanks to the high-end phones – the S III and the Note II.