Samsung overtook Apple to become the world's biggest shipper of smartphones between July and September.
Research from Strategy Analytics showed that Samsung shipped 27.8 million smartphones in the three-month period, compared with 17.1 million from Apple and 16.8 million from Nokia.
The consultancy said Apple's growth was hindered by customers waiting for the launch of the new iPhone 4S.
Apple's number four slot in total handsets was taken by China's ZTE.
Nokia was the top handset shipper with a 27.3% market share, followed by Samsung with 22.6% and LG with 5.4%.
ZTE took 4.7%, pushing Apple into fifth place with 4.4%.
The report came shortly after the release of Samsung's third-quarter results, which showed profits falling 23% as strong growth in its mobile phone business was overshadowed by a poor performance in the memory chip arm.
Handset profits more than doubled to 2.52tn won ($2.3bn; £1.4bn) on strong sales from its Galaxy smartphones.
"Samsung's rise has been driven by a blend of elegant hardware designs, popular Android services, memorable sub-brands and extensive global distribution," said Alex Spektor from Strategy Analytics.
"Samsung has demonstrated that it is possible, at least in the short term, to differentiate and grow by using the Android ecosystem."
A total of 117 million smartphones were shipped in the third quarter, up 44% from the same period last year.
Nokia's market share for smartphones fell from 33% in the third quarter of 2010 to to 14% this time round.
"The transition from Symbian to Microsoft as Nokia's main smartphone platform has clearly been a very challenging process this year," said Tom Kang from Strategy Analytics.
"The recent launch of the new Microsoft Lumia portfolio has helped to raise Nokia's profile."