Is 10 million shipped in a month really less disappointing than 5 million sold in three days?

The iPhone 5 launched to record sales figures; 5 million units sold to customers in the first three days. Samsung's Galaxy S4 has also launched to strong figures; 10 million units shipped in the first 4 weeks. One of these was a 'disappointment,' yet the other is hailed as a triumph. Seems crazy? Well, maybe it is.

For Samsung, 10 million units shipped makes it their fastest selling smartphone release ever, so for the folks from Korea at least, it is indeed a triumph. But, Apple sold -- not shipped -- 5 million units of the iPhone 5 in the first 3 days.

Phillip Elmer Dewitt of Fortune compares the coverage of both stories and highlight how Apple is covered as doom and gloom, and Samsung as almost jubilant. Check his story out. The difference is remarkable.

Analysts called 6 million units for the iPhone 5 the "worst case scenario" for Apple's opening weekend. And yet, they hit half Samsung's first month sales within three days. We're not going to knock Samsung. 10 million is a lot of phones. But, it does require us to ask the question -- why the disparity in coverage?

Source: CNN Money

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Richard Devine

Senior Editor at iMore, part time racing driver, full time British guy

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Is 10 million shipped in a month really less disappointing than 5 million sold in three days?


It's clear that samsung is paying a lot of media to spread these 'apple is doomed' FUD; just like how they paid students in Taiwan to post fake reviews bashing the hTC one.

I don't know I actually like the design. The problem is, they overplayed it by making it the same on all their devices from the Note II, all those Galaxy "sub" phones, those cheap Galaxy Tablets etc.

Otherwise, the S3 was actually quite a unique design and won numerous awards. The S4 isn't too bad, it's just poor in comparison to the design and build of the iPhone 5 and HTC One.

I think , in this case, the author at business insider did not compare iphones to samsung phones. He said , the expectations were very high for apple and it did not reach it. Of course, for companies like apple which set a high standard in terms of quality, customer satisfaction and therefore sales, the expectations will always be high and the freaking analysts can make their calls as they wish. I personally would not give importance to this kind of propaganda.

All about expectations. Apple is expected to sell more since they are the only ones to get an IOS device. Samsung is doing all this amongst all the other android vendors. Apples is more impressive yes

Wasn't it just outed that Apple's definition of sold is 'shipped' as well? One reference:

Apple's own 10-k filing states the same:
"For most of the Company’s product sales, these criteria are met at the time the product is shipped." [page 26]

So why keep making the reference to 'shipped vs sold' as if there is a difference. That ship has sailed.

As for the headlines, yeah...they're a joke. Apple did 5 in the weekend, how much did they do in the first 4 weeks?

Nice post! I thought apples definition was indeed different. I also wonder how many Iphones were sold in the first 4 weeks. Also didnt Samsung sell 4 million in its opening weekend as well? I think comparing the 4 million to 5 milllion over the course of a weekend makes for better comparison.

But to answer the authors question its expectations. Apple is believed to be at the top and so their expected to do more. One day, maybe next year Samsung will be expected to do more and they wont and everyone will claim doom.

It just comes down to expectations and previous history. The iphone 4s doubled what the iphone 4 did in the first 3 days. Many expected another doubling with the iphone 5 (especially with more carriers in place, more countries at once, and a redesign) and it didn't happen.

For the first 3 days:
iphone 3GS: 1 million
iphone 4: 1.7 million
iphone 4S: 4 million
iphone 5: 5 million

Some of the other factors were IMO:
1. The 4S was sold after a 16month gap which also included Verizon for the first time (at launch).
2. Carriers were more lenient with moving up upgrade dates for the iphone 4S and previous. For the iphone 5, this practice of moving up upgrade dates had come to an end.
3. Apple had a hard time making iphone 5's fast enough.

I think the bar got set a little too high. No company can continue to double or triple sales every single year and keep up the pace without flooding the market. Eventually a ceiling was going to hit. I would not doubt that Apple keeping two years worth of older units on the shelves doesn't help either.

Yeah, IMHO, this isn't an Apple problem but is an analyst one. They missed high on Apple so Apple suffers. They missed low for Samsung so Samsung benefits.

It is simply a matter of expectations. People expected Apple to clear a high bar, and they didn't. People expected Samsung to clear a lower bar, and they far exceeded it. That's all. Since comic book movies are often referenced here, let's put it in those terms.

1) GI Joe 2 was expected to do about $300M worldwide. It looks like it will top out at $380M. The studios and investors are jubilant. Greater than expectations == joy on the part of the investors, because they made more than they expected to.

2) Star Trek Into Darkness was expected to do about $100M this past weekend. It did $84M. It is still a great opening, and ultimately it will gross more than GI Joe 2, but it is less than what the studio and investors expected when they put up their talent and cash. Less than expectations == disappointment, even if in absolute terms they made out pretty well.

Does that mean GI Joe 2 is a better movie, or that Paramount would rather GI Joe's opening $45M than Star Trek's $84M? Of course not. It just means that the today's mood is set by what had been written 6, 8, 10 months prior.

Back to smartphones, the difference in coverage is a direct result of the Apple articles written in 2010, 2011, and 2012, and the expectations they set before Apple of consistent 100% year-on-year growth. Rest assured, if Samsung enjoys this level of growth for another 2 years, and then hits-a-record-but-not-quite-recordy-enough, the articles in 2015 will be just as disappointed in them.

Apple = Star Trek: Into Darkness, Samsung = GI Joe: Retaliation?

The comparison seems about right. :)

That's part of the point -- these pieces have *nothing to say* regarding the quality of the products in question, or their current absolute sales numbers. They reflect only how today's sales compared to yesterday's expectation.

Nothing more, nothing less.

I would like to see that stat too. I mean if you are going to write an article comparing the two, a good place to start would be with apples to apples statistics.

The reason is simple. The iPhone 5 is 1 phone. Samsung has MULTIPLE phones on the market. It's a bigger story when you put something out once or twice a year versus 3 or 4 times a year.

But they also release many other random models throughout the year at different times. (Different lines of smart phones, several other types of galaxy phones like ie. mini.)

I think the fear is that, Apple sells the highest number of phone in a small time period that opening weekend to it's hard core fans. When the numbers are good, but below expectation, it sets a precedence for how the phone will do over all in Biz people's minds. Samsung fans aren't ravenous for new tech like Apple fans are.

the iphone is the go-to phone for so many people, the S4 is not quite like that yet. S4 will have very strong sales during the year, nearly as strong as the iphone.

people line up for the new iphones, not so much for galaxy series. people who buy galaxy phones can be patient for it.

Honestly I really hate coming to the comment section of iMore sometimes I sit here and read some of these comments people leave and it makes me shake my head. :( 1 company sells 5 million is 3 days and another sells 10 million in 4 weeks thy both are AWESOME achievements yet some of the comments are ridiculous as If you don't read the post and just come in to straight praise Apple and bash Samsung. *smh*

Did you read it yourself? It says 10 million shipped, not sold. The pot shouldn't call the kettle black. Besides, your on a pro Apple site, What do you expect?

It's a combination of things.

1) What's expected vs. what actually happened.
2) This is just a single model in Samsung's entire line, and it's not even available everywhere yet. It JUST hit Verizon in the States, for example.
3) Believe it or not, Samsung is the underdog. The press loves underdog stories.

In any case, I think it's fair to say both Apple and Samsung have not a single thing to worry about. Who cares what the press says?

I'm done with these petty comparisons. Enjoy it for what it is: a leading brand that you know you'll be able to enjoy for years to come because they're doing so well.