Samsung leaped past Apple as the world's top smartphone maker in the July-September quarter amid a widening legal battle between the two companies. This is according to research firm Strategy Analytics, which said the industry has seen year-on-year growth of 44% in smartphone shipments to a record 117 million units.

The Korean electronics giants shipped 27.8 million smartphones last quarter, accounting for 23.8% of the market, while Apple took a 14.6% share with 17.1 million units shipped. Samsung's stellar quarter was driven by a blend of elegant hardware designs, popular Android services and extensive global distribution.

But their success isn't coming from Android handsets alone as the company also sells a range of inexpensive smartphones running the Bada platform.

Apple spent just one quarter as the world's top smartphone vendor when it shipped 20.34 million iPhone handsets in Q2 2011, surpassing former leader Nokia. The company's lead slipped as people were holding out for the iPhone 4S launch while Samsung was seeing strong sales with its Galaxy S II handsets.

It'll be interesting to see if Samsung can hold on to the top spot next quarter. Apple has said it sold 4 million iPhone 4S units in its first weekend on sale, while Samsung is expected to start selling the Galaxy Nexus in November.

When it comes to all handset sales globally, Nokia still remains top with 106.6 million shipments in Q3 2011, compared to 110.4 million the previous year. Samsung closed in with a total of 88 million handsets during the quarter, up from up from 71.4 million last year, while Chinese handset maker ZTE moved up to No. 4 with 18.5 million units shipped. Apple, which only sells the iPhone, fell to the No. 5 spot with 17.1 million units sold.