For many years Nokia was known as the biggest smartphone manufacturer in the world. A couple of years ago the things began to go wrong, but Nokia signed an agreement with Microsoft and decided to start making Windows Phone-based devices, hoping it would help them regain the popularity they once had.

However, yesterday Nokia shocked everybody with very bad results in the first quarter of 2012, so perhaps they’re no longer the biggest manufacturer, and Samsung (which was the second after Nokia) now dominates in the mobile industry.

In Q1 2012 Nokia sold 71 million feature phones and only 12 million smartphones, which is a terrible drop – even in Q4 2011 they sold 113.5 million phones, and they really expected this year to be better after the release of the Lumia 800 and the other phones from this line… But alas. On the other hand, all these years Samsung was growing slowly but surely. This year they shipped about 41-44 million smartphones and 44-47 million feature phones, so even the lowest estimates for Samsung’s sales (85 million phones) are higher than Nokia’s 83 million.

So it’s really likely that this quarter Samsung will completely beat Nokia. The only question now is – will they be able to beat Apple, too? After all, Samsung and Apple have been fighting for the right to be called the biggest smartphone manufacturer, and though Samsung’s Galaxy S2 was known as the best smartphone in the market, Apple’s iPhones are also very popular, especially in the U.S.

For many years Nokia managed to overtake both companies, since they produced good feature phones that were very popular in countries with small incomes. However, manufacturers like Samsung and HTC started making very cheap smartphones, so Nokia’s feature phones became no longer competitive. China, India, the Middle East and Africa have always been the key markets for Nokia, but even there people now prefer to buy other, non-Symbian phones.

The official results are yet to come in a couple of weeks, and there is a slight chance that after the release of the cheaper phones like the Lumia 610 or its NFC version Nokia will rise again. But for now Samsung seems to be the leader in the global phone market.