Samsung and HTC appear to be playing the Android card just right, as both companies wrapped up remarkable third quarters. HTC edged out Apple and Samsung to become the leading smartphone vendor in the United States.  HTC shipped 5.7 million smartphones in the U.S. under its own brand, giving it almost a quarter of the market, as well as an estimated 70,000 units under the T-Mobile brand.

"However you count it, HTC has become a deserved leader in the U.S. smartphone market," said Chris Jones, vice president and principal analyst for Canalys, in a statement.

Samsung pushed Apple into third place in the U.S. market, with shipments of its own-brand devices reaching 4.9 million units. Apple's U.S. smartphone shipments totaled 4.6 million in the quarter and it was affected around the world by consumers waiting for the launch of the next-generation iPhone.

"Apple did not stir the usual excitement levels in the industry with the announcement of the iPhone 4S, but that was never likely to dampen volumes, due to pent up demand from the later than expected launch and the addition of Sprint as a third carrier," said Jones. "Early iPhone 4S sales have shown this is the case, and we expect to see a strong Q4 for Apple."

Meanwhile, Research In Motion (RIM) had another tough quarter in its largest market, where its volumes declined 58 percent from a year ago and its U.S. market share slipped from 24 percent in Q3 2010 to just 9 percent in Q3 2011. It continues to face unfavorable press and its volumes have dropped significantly despite a refreshed product line that includes its flagship BlackBerry Bold 9900.

"While Apple can for now get away with not having a 4G smartphone, no other vendor in the U.S. can," said Tim Shepherd, U.K.-based Canalys senior analyst, in a statement. "RIM must deliver a competitive high-end 4G smartphone in early 2012."

And while RIM's performance here in the United States might have been lackluster, the company has done well in other parts of the world. RIM grew 59 percent in EMEA and 56 percent in APAC over a year ago, largely driven by the continued popularity of BBM, its BlackBerry Messenger service.

"The Middle East and Africa and Southeast Asia were particular bright spots, and while October's outage, focused on EMEA particularly, has hurt RIM's reputation for reliability, we do not expect it to have a substantial impact and expect a decent Q4 performance there," Shepherd said.

Canalys' research also revealed huge growth in the smartphone market in mainland China, where shipments in the third quarter increased by 160 percent annually to 23.2 million units. Just over 200,000 fewer smartphones shipped in China than in the United States.

"The Chinese smartphone market is seeing explosive growth, not least from domestic vendors Huawei and ZTE," said Nicole Peng, Shanghai-based Canalys research director for China.

Canalys reports that the worldwide smartphone market grew 49 percent year-on-year to 120.4 million units.