South Korea's Samsung has posted estimated quarterly profits of $5.15bn on the back of smartphone sales and the launch of its Galaxy Note smartphone-tablet hybrid. 

The electronics manufacturer said on Friday that the first-quarter figures amounted to a 97 per cent rise on its operating profit a year earlier, and hailed the success of the Note, which has been dubbed a "phablet".

The Note, with a screen half the size of the world's best selling tablet, the iPad, and a stylus, long thought to be a relic of the PDA age, has sold more than five million units since its October launch.

Samsung estimated that its first quarter sales rose 21.6 per cent from a year earlier, although the figures are intended as a guide for investors, rather than a report of actual earnings.

Smartphone wars

The company is banking on surprise sales of the Note to boost its reputation from that of a "fast follower" to an industry leader in design and aesthetics and a rival to Apple and its successful range of iOS-powered devices.

"Note sales will increase further in the second quarter, and handset profit will grow despite a rise in marketing costs related to the London Olympics", said Lee Ka-keun, an analyst at Hana Daetoo Securities.

Samsung, which raced to the top of the global smartphone rankings last year with close to a fifth of the market, from
just three per cent in 2009, is set to go head-to-head with Apple this quarter with the expected launch of a revamped Galaxy S, its flagship smartphone, and Apple's next iPhone.

"They will engage in a full-fledged war," said Hana Daetoo's Lee.

Though the stylus-powered Note has built an unexpected market for itself, it still has a long way to go before dethroning the industry-leading iPad, which has sold over 55 million units to date.

Samsung is the world's largest manufacturer of memory chips and liquid crystal displays.

Source: Agencies