Nokia Corp. is starting to show some progress in its attempt to strengthen its hold as the world’s number three smart phone maker.

The Finnish company said Tuesday that it sold 8.8 million Windows-powered Lumia smart phones in the quarter that ended Sept. 30. That’s a 15 per cent increase over the previous quarter. Nokia said its biggest seller was the Lumia 520.

Meanwhile the number two smart phone manufacturer, Apple Inc., last night reported it sold 33.8 million iPhones in the same quarter, along with 14.1 million iPads and 4.6 million Macs.

Nokia’s Lumia numbers should give Microsoft Corp. some comfort in its US$7 billion deal to buy the handset division. The deal may be finalized next month.

Overall Nokia sold 55 million handsets, including the new Nokia 105, a feature phone;  the 3-in. Asha 501; and the Nokia 210, which has a physical keyboard.

Still for the first nine months of the year net sales of devices and services was down 28 per cent compared to the same period in 2012. The number of mobile phones was down 25 per cent.

During the third quarter Nokia had an operating profit of just under $170 million.

“The third quarter was among the most transformative in our company’s history,” Nokia CFO and interim president Timo Ihamoutila, said in a statement. “We became the full owner of (telecom equipment maker) NSN and we agreed on the sale of our handset operations to Microsoft, transactions which we believe will radically reshape the future of Nokia for the better. Subject to the completion of the Microsoft transaction, Nokia will have significantly improved earnings profile, strong financial position and a solid foundation from which to invest.”

Apple’s numbers, meanwhile, generated mixed comment. Financial analyst Michael Walkley of Canaccord Genuity calculated that iPhone’s average selling price was US$578 during the quarter, down from US$582. That’s consistent with surveys showing sales are up of the price-reduced iPhone 4 and 4S, he said.

Still, he noted that gross iPad and iPhone margins are dropping quicker than expectations.

However, that wasn’t much to worry about. He expects iPhone sales during the holiday period to hit 51.5 million driven by the new iPhone 5s.

The “soft” iPad sales during the quarter don’t include the just-launched new versions of the tablet, the iPad Air and iPad mini Retina.

Overall for the quarter Apple had a net profit in the quarter of US$7 billion on sales of US$37.5 billion.

To read details of the Nokia results click here.   To read details of the Apple results click here.

 

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