According to data from the International Data Corporation released early this week, the iPhone stole Samsung's crown in 2023 with 234.6 million units sold, compared to the South Korean firm's 226.6 million units.
The US tech giant commanded a 20.1% market share ahead of Samsung's 19.4%, the IDC said.
Analysts from the closely watched market tracker said Apple's rise was due to the success of premium devices such as the iPhone.
They also pointed to an increasingly fragmented market for smartphones that run on the Android operating system, citing low-end Samsung rivals such as Transsion and Xiaomi as well as Honor and Google.
The success of Huawei's well-received offerings in China also had an effect on Samsung's drop in sales, the IDC said.
The sales data came ahead of the latest release of Samsung models expected at an event in California on Wednesday, Jan. 17.
According to IDC, global smartphone shipments declined 3.2% to 1.17 billion units in 2023, though the group said the industry was recovering after a sluggish period.
"Growth in the second half of the year has cemented the expected recovery for 2024," the IDC said in a statement. (AFP)