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Samsung slowly closing the Apple gap

Continued sales gains in the last three months of 2012 have propelled Samsung to within 10% of Apple's smartphone market share, according to the latest research from the NPD Group.

Apple retained a 39% market share, but Samsung closed what had been a 20 percentage point gap to 9% between the fourth quarter of 2011 and the fourth quarter of 2012. At 30%, Samsung's share rose 9% year-over-year, while Apple's slid down two points from 41%.

[ MORE SMARTPHONES: The Samsung Galaxy S 4 shows up in New Zealand, and on an AT&T stat sheet ]

NPD Group vice president of industry analysis Stephen Baker said that Apple's continued strength isn't simply the product of iPhone 5 mania.

"In addition to strong U.S. sales of iPhone 5, Apple has been bolstered by strong and continued demand for older, less-expensive iPhone models," he said in a statement.

NPD Group's statistics bear this out - on a quarterly basis, iPhone 4 sales rose by 79%, and iPhone 4S sales increased by 43%.

Even though the hot new iPhone 5 accounted for less than half of all iPhone sales in the quarter, it was still the top-selling single model in that period of time, with the Samsung Galaxy S III in second place. The rest of the top five looked pretty similar, with the iPhone 4S, iPhone 4, and Samsung Galaxy S II rounding out the field.

NPD Group's findings also showed further evidence of the trend towards greater smartphone sales as a proportion of the total mobile market - the company said that 81% of all mobile phones sold in the fourth quarter of 2012 were smartphones, up from 66% in the same period in 2011.

Email Jon Gold at jgold@nww.com and follow him on Twitter at @NWWJonGold.

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