The first quarter of 2012 saw Korean mobile firm Samsung overtake Apple to regain its position as the biggest seller of smartphones across the world, according to a report released by Strategy Analytics.

Samsung’s 31 percent market share saw it out-gun Apple’s 24 percent over the three month period, flipping the duo’s positions after the Cupertino-based firm led the previous quarter. Samsung has not revealed its sales figure for the quarter, though analysts estimate it be in the region of 44 million, while Apple this week disclosed that it sold 35 million iPhones.

strat ana table Samsung regains global smartphone sales top spot, overtaking Apple

Retailers remain keen on Samsung’s range and the firm’s global smartphone shipments rose by 253 percent (year-on-year) to account for 44.5 million devices. In particular, Strategy Analytics notes that “demand surged for its popular Galaxy models such as the Note, S2 and Y.”

Apple’s brief time at the top of smartphone sales ranking coincided with the launch of the iPhone 4S. While the firm has been overtaken by Samsung as the initial buzz around the device quietened, Strategy Analytics concludes that Apple increased its presence in the China, the U.S. and Japan, each of which is a key global market.

Industry-wide smartphone shipments continue to rise in the last quarter, with total units shipped growing 41 percent year-on-year to hit 145.3 million. Samsung and Apple have raced out ahead, however, and their dominance now sees their combined shipments account for more than of all global handset shipments for the first time.

“Samsung and Apple are outcompeting most of their major rivals and the smartphone market is at risk of becoming a two-horse race,” said Strategy Analytic’s Neil Mawston.

Elsewhere, Nokia’s fall continued as it lost 23 percent market share of sales, but it did hold its position as the world’s third largest smartphone market, thanks to the promising performance of its Lumia range in the West.

“This is Nokia’s lowest marketshare level in the smartphone category since 2002. Nokia’s new Microsoft Lumia portfolio has recently gotten off to an encouraging start in the critical United States market, but shipments there are not yet large enough to offset the firm’s tumbling Symbian volumes in the rest of the world”, warned Strategy Analytics’s Tom Kang.

Nokia’s demise and Samsung’s rise sees the Korean firm become the world’s biggest seller of all mobile phones, both smartphones and feature phones.