Samsung is poised to overtake Nokia as the world's top cellphone brand this year, according to iSuppli's preliminary 2012 forecast. The researcher has published its expected rankings for the top five handset OEMs with Samsung accounting for 29% of the industry's shipments, up from 24% in 2011, followed by 24% for Nokia, down from 30% last year – a shift that marks the first time in 14 years where Nokia isn't number one.

"Samsung's successes and Nokia's struggles in the cellphone market this year were determined entirely by the two companies' divergent fortunes in the smartphone sector," said senior analyst Wayne Lam. The report notes that smartphones will account for nearly half of all wireless handset shipments in 2012, a 35.5% increase from last year, while overall cellphone shipments are only expected to increase by roughly 1%.

Or as Lam put it, mobile device makers were forced to live by the smartphone or die by the smartphone in 2012. Samsung's success is attributed to the company's streamlined scattershot approach of launching dozens of devices across all price points. Meanwhile, Nokia is in the middle of transitioning to Windows Phone – a decision that was largely about product differentiation CEO Stephen Elop told CNET in a recent interview.

Samsung is also the top manufacturer when looking purely at smartphone figures, representing 28% of unit shipments, up from 20% last year and enough to distance itself from Apple, which accounted for 20% of the shipments this year and was only 1% behind Samsung last year. Nokia, HTC and RIM each represented 5% of overall smartphone shipments and occupied the bottom three spots on iSuppli's top-five list.