Apple to top iPhone sales against all other smart phones in the coming holidays

Apple’s long-awaited iPhone 4S and Samsung Electronics’ fresh, broad offering are likely to stand out in this holiday season’s smartphone sales which will otherwise be clouded by global economic uncertainty.

Apple, which lost its position as the world’s largest smartphone maker to Samsung last quarter, could regain top spot as consumers rush to buy the latest iPhone after waiting 16 months since the previous model went on sale.

Like millions elsewhere, 36-year-old Vanessa Pigeon last week took up an offer from her telecom operator and replaced her aging Blackberry with the latest iPhone.

"I liked the design and I wanted to change for a long time," said Pigeon, a recruitment official in Paris.

In neighboring Britain, which is often seen as the indicator for the rest of the European market, the iPhone took a whopping 43 percent market share in October, overtaking phones using Google Inc’s Android platform, according to research firm Kantar Worldpanel

"It’s really only the iPhone family and the (Samsung) Galaxy family flying off the shelves. Everyone else is just picking up the leftovers," said Neil Mawston, analyst at research firm Strategy Analytics in Milton Keynes, Britain.

HTC and Research In Motion — No.4 and No.5 smartphone vendors — have already warned of weak holiday sales. The year end is a key sales season for smartphone vendors as consumers often replace their models for the holidays.

Vendors are expected to sell a total of 142 million smartphones in October-December, up 42 percent from a year ago, according to a Reuters poll of analysts.

"At this moment we’re still doubtful on whether we’ll see any seasonality this Christmas because the demand we see so far is very bad," said Bonnie Chang, analyst at Yuanta Securities in Taipei.

Overall phone sales have been shrinking in western Europe this year as consumers delay purchases in a tighter economy. Analysts expect sales of non-smartphones to stay on a par with year-ago numbers.

Smartphone sales growth, which is driven by swapping for more advanced models, has slowed over the year.

"For Europe, Q4 will not be the usual bonanza. The economy is pushing consumers to be pickier," said Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi, adding this played to the advantage of Samsung and Apple.