Research firm Canalys in its new report ranked Taiwanese handset maker HTC (owned by the Formosa Plastics Group conglomerate) the leading smartphone vendor in the United States. The finding is based on the reported third-quarter shipments by major phone makers including HTC, Samsung and Apple. And, per-country performance estimates stemming from historic trends. As you know, Apple sold 17.07 million iPhones during the September quarter, a 16 percent sequential decline the company blamed on the rumor-mill hype. Meanwhile, Samsung passed Apple by an estimated ten million units and HTC today reported shipments of 13.2 million handsets.

As for the United States, Canalys estimated HTC’s shipments at 5.77 million devices (5.7 million handsets under its own brand and 70,000 units with T-Mobile branding). Apple shipped an estimated 4.6 million iPhones in the quarter (4.9 million for Samsung). In all, HTC in the September quarter was the leading phone vendor in the United States, Samsung was second (plus #1 smartphone maker globally) and Apple ranked third. Canalys analyst Chris Jones said:

However you count it, HTC has become a deserved leader in the US smart phone market. This is an awesome achievement for HTC, which has built a premium brand in a highly competitive market in just a few short years. It now has a strong range of 4G Android products, with devices ranged by each of the major carriers, and offers some of the most compelling and differentiated products found on the platform today.

There is, however, a difference between selling and shipping. As for Samsung’s numbers, these could be called into question to a certain extent because the company stopped divulging smartphone and tablet sales back in June, citing competition from Apple. Let’s not forget the mobile space is a fickle one and prone to seasonalities and that Apple could regain its crown during the holiday quarter. That’s not to say HTC’s lead in the United States isn’t well-deserved, quite the contrary…

Back in June, Nielsen ranked HTC the nation’s second-largest phone vendor, after Apple, and the country’s leading Android and Windows Phone vendor with a 14 percent and six percent share, respectively. HTC boss recently went on the record to dismiss Apple’s iPhone as not being cool with college kids anymore “because their dad has one”. Striving for the coolness allure, HTC paid $300 million in exchange for a 51 percent stake in Beats Electronics, the consumer electronics company founded in 2005 by the gangsta rapper Dr. Dre and Interscope Geffen A&M Records CEO Jimmy Iovineto (Dre wants to be second to Apple). The partnership allows HTC to incorporate Beats technology into their phones while the rap artist endorsement should help score a couple coolness points with kids.

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