The battle for dominance in the smartphone market is solidifying with South Korea's Samsung Electronics Co., holding onto the top spot, a research firm said. Samsung's third quarter sales held steady at 32.1 percent in the third quarter, while Apple sales slipped to 12.1 percent, down from 14.3 percent in the third quarter of 2012, technology research firm Gartner Inc. said. MarketWatch reported that Apple, despite sliding market share, sold 30.3 million phones in the quarter, a 23.2 percent gain from the same quarter a year earlier, when it sold 24.6 million. Apple might have done better if the company had started shipments of the iPhone 5 earlier in the quarter, Gartner analyst Anshul Gupta said. Apple, MarketWatch said, is expected to sell 55 million smartphones in the fourth quarter, but some analysts are questioning the company's ability to hit that target. Gartner said Lenovo sold close to 13 million phones in the third quarter, capturing a 5.1 percent share of the market. LG Electronics followed that with 12.1 million units sold and a 4.8 percent market share. Microsoft's market share is smaller, but sales rose 123 percent in the quarter to 8.9 million units. In the third quarter of 2012, Microsoft sold fewer than 4 million units, MarketWatch said.