Strategy Analytics: iPhone 5/4S are world’s two most popular smartphones

iPhone 4S and Galaxy S III in hand

Just as investors are (again) punishing the Apple stock on talk of Foxconn freezing recruitment in China amid weakening iPhone 5 demand (or perhaps because the iPhone 5S is entering production in March?) comes a new survey of the smartphone market by research firm Strategy Analytics. And the numbers look good: the iPhone 5 and iPhone 4S each outsold Samsung’s Galaxy S III during the all-important 2012 holiday quarter.

This makes the iPhone 5 the world’s bestselling smartphone, but what’s really eyebrow-raising is that the 16-month old (and now discounted) iPhone 4S also overtook Samsung’s flagship device…

According to Strategy Analytics data, Apple sold 27.4 million iPhone 5 units and 17.4 million iPhone 4S units during the fourth quarter of 2012. By comparison, Samsung sold 15.4 Galaxy S III units.

Note that the Samsung Galaxy S3 total does not include the S3 Mini, S2, S or any other related models.

Strategy Analytics (smartphones Q42012)
Global smartphone shipments and market share by model in Q4 2012.
Source: Strategy Analytics Handset Country Share Tracker.

Strategy Analytics notes:

The iPhone 5 captured an impressive 13 percent share of all smartphones shipped globally and it has become the world’s best-selling smartphone model for the first time ever.

Researches attribute the achievement to the iPhone 5’s “rich touchscreen design”, but also to extensive distribution across more than a hundred countries and “generous operator subsidies”.

Combined, the iPhone 5 and iPhone 4S accounted for one in five of all smartphones shipped worldwide in Q4 2012. Samsung’s Galaxy S3 was the world’s third best-selling smartphone model based on shipments of 15.4 million units globally.

In all likelihood, both the iPhone 5 and Galaxy S3 appears to have peaked. Samsung unveiled its device in May 2012 and Apple’s smartphone was last refreshed in September 2012. The South Korean chaebol is said to be launching a successor to the S III as early as March 14 and Apple is widely expected to update the iPhone around summer.

As observed by Fortune’s Philip Elmer-DeWitt, “for the first time, Apple has the world’s No. 1 and No. 2 world’s bestselling smartphones.”

Financial Times spooked investors this morning with claims that Foxconn recruiters stopped hiring for the iPhone and iPad production lines in Shenzhen and at Zhengzhou, China.