Samsung saw 20 million shipments of its smartphones in the last quarter, ahead of Apple's 17.1 million units shipped in the last quarter, it has been claimed.

Apple reported earlier this week that it had shipped more than 17 million iPhones in its fiscal fourth quarter, short of analyst predictions.

The Wall Street Journal (subscription required) reports that Samsung will report shipments of 20 million when it officially releases its third quarter earnings next week, according to an anonymous source apparently familiar with the matter.

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Apple was declared the largest smartphone vendor in the world by IDC back in August but if the report is correct it will soon be handing that crown over to Samsung. Another rival, Nokia, this week said it had sold 16.8 million handsets in the last quarter.

Early indications, though, are that Apple's latest handset, the iPhone 4S, is selling strongly, with four million units sold in just three days.

Samsung has also got a new smartphone on its hands, the Galaxy Nexus, which runs the latest version of Android - known as Ice Cream Sandwich.

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