Biting At Nokia’s Heels, Samsung’s Device Sales In 2011 Pass 300 Million

Samsung may be still be trying to crack the tablet market, but in mobile devices it is continuing to pick up steam: it sold 300 million devices so far this year, breaking its previous record.

According to a report in Reuters, Samsung passed the 300-million milestone at the end of November. This means that with one more, crucial shopping month to go in the year, the company has already sold more than in 2010, when it sold 280 million mobile units.

This also means, however, that despite Samsung’s growth, it is likely to remain in the number-two overall position in mobile rankings, second to Nokia (NYSE: NOK), which sold over 300 million devices (303.6 million, to be exact) in the first three quarters of this year.

Nokia over the summer abandoned its previous targets for mobile sales for the year when it revised down its Q2 figures, so the company is not giving guidance. However, given the declines we’ve seen every quarter year-on-year so far for 2011, even with a little bump from the launch of the new Lumia smartphones running Windows Phone 7.5 from Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT), the overall number may well be lower or level with the 450 million devices that Nokia sold in 2010.

The real battleground in mobile has been over premium smartphone devices, which not only cost more and have better margins than feature phones, but can be the source of potential recurring revenues — or at least that’s what the handset makers hope. Companies like Samsung and HTC, as well as Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) of course, have been loading their own content on to the devices in the hopes of getting users to buy into this as much as into the smartphones themselves. So far, even the most successful, Apple, has only made a fraction of revenues through the App Store and iTunes compared to what they make from the sales of the devices themselves.

Samsung, however, has been one of the main handset makers that has been transforming the “lower end” market for feature phones, with its proprietary bada operating system, complete with app store and other content services, that effectively gives users a smartphone experience with a lower-specced and less expensive device. In Q3, Samsung’s bada actually outsold Microsoft’s Windows Phone devices, according to Gartner. Gartner, incidentally, puts bada into the same category with smartphone platforms, and that’s probably something to keep an eye on, as Samsung starts to work with Intel (NSDQ: INTC) on a new OS.

Several handset makers, including Samsung, HTC and Nokia have warned the market about their handset sales, with HTC recently saying they may be at best level with last year, with economic and supply issues holding back growth: one point to Samsung for helping manage and then exceed those expectations.