Samsung may have surpassed both Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) and Nokia (NYSE: NOK) in the second quarter to become the world's largest smartphone maker in terms of unit shipments, according to research firm Strategy Analytics.

The forecast, which echoes earlier predictions for the second quarter, would be a milestone for Samsung. According to Strategy Analytics, Samsung shipped between 18 million and 21 million smartphones globally in the second quarter, compared with 16.7 million for Nokia and 20.3 million iPhones for Apple, which was a record.

Other analysts, including those at Nomura, have predicted Samsung will at least surpass Nokia. Apple passed Nokia in terms of smartphone shipments for the first time in the second quarter. Samsung soared to prominence largely on the back of smartphones running Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG) Android platform. Samsung also sells smartphones running Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT) Windows Phone 7 and its own bada OS.

"Samsung's Android portfolio is selling strongly in most regions," Strategy Analytics analyst Neil Mawston told Bloomberg. "Samsung stands a reasonable chance of capturing the top spot on a quarterly basis if it can continue expanding its Android portfolio across high-growth markets like China and Brazil. Samsung and Apple will be at similar levels in smartphones by the end of the year."

Samsung's shipments were likely helped by strong sales of its new hit model, the Galaxy S II. The company said earlier this month it shipped 3 million devices in 55 days. Samsung expects to ship 60 million smartphones this year and 300 million handsets in total.

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