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Samsung battles Apple in Australia/NZ phone market as patent fight expands

There's rarely a day anymore that TUAW doesn't report on the status of one or more patent infringement lawsuits. The latest from the battle between Apple and Samsung is that the Cupertino company has now issued a notice of infringement to Samsung in Australia, noting that Samsung's case design for its phones and Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet are infringing on Apple's patents.

Apple's notice of infringement, as reported by Bloomberg, identifies 10 patents that the company believes Samsung is violating. At this point, the new claims will be piled onto more than 30 other lawsuits the companies have filed against each other.

Samsung can point to hopeful signs Down Under, though. IDC today reported that Samsung has overtaken Apple in the combined Australia and New Zealand mobile phone market, where 65% of all phones sold qualify as smartphones. The numbers are a bit confusing in the IDC press release, so we are reaching out to them for clarification from the main research report; it's not clear whether it's Samsung specifically or Android-based phones overall that have overtaken Apple's 36% market share in Australia.

In New Zealand, iPhone shipments slowed in preparation for the launch of the iPhone 4S, allowing Samsung to capture the lead for smartphone shipments in that country by pushing the Galaxy S II and Galaxy 5. Other manufacturers, including Huawei, are making inroads as well by selling low-cost smartphones.

Apple holds third place in the NZ market with 13% overall share, but most likely the reason for a poor quarter there is all in the timing -- the iPhone 4S didn't launch in New Zealand until well after the Australian version went on sale, starting shipments on November 11. Pricing and carrier subsidies in NZ are also a bit more stringent than elsewhere; Vodafone requires an NZ$85/month plan for 2 years to discount the 16GB iPhone 4S from an eyepopping NZ$1049 down to a manageable NZ$149 purchase cost.

IDC's Yee-Kuan Lau reported that for 2011, Android will win "by a hair in the Australian smartphones tussle," while in New Zealand, "Android is expected to widen the gap and maintain the lead in the smartphones market."

[via The Next Web and The Verge]