Apple reportedly second biggest smartphone shipper in the world, again

Apple reportedly second biggest smartphone shipper in the world

Market share remains the most popular metric to calculate among metric calculators, and last quarter their measures claim Apple shipped the second largest amount of smartphones in the world at 31.2 million, representing a 13.1% slice of the customer pie. IDC reports:

Apple posted its second-lowest year-over-year iPhone growth rate in almost four years as some buyers presumably held off on iPhone purchases in advance of an expected next-generation device launch this fall. Nonetheless, the 31.2 million iPhones Apple shipped last quarter was impressive as its flagship iPhone 5 model, which has been in the market for three quarters, was faced with additional global competition in the form of Samsung's Galaxy S4 and HTC's critically-acclaimed One models. Apple's growth is likely to accelerate globally assuming it launches a lower-cost iPhone and continues to penetrate prepaid markets in the quarters to come.

Samsung took the top spot at 72.4 million units shipped, for a 30.4% share, and LG rounded out the top three with 12.1 million and 5.1%. When it comes to all phones, not just the smart ones, Samsung jumps to a whopping 114.4 million units but only a 26.2% share, because Nokia remains on that particular chart with 61.1 million units for 14.1%.

So, while Apple moved more units than this time last year, Samsung moved way more units, and that brought Apple's overall moved-units number down. (Nokia moved way less units than they did this time last year, but not way-enough-er to fall below Apple yet when you count dumb-phones, which Apple doesn't make.)

What does this tell us? Once again as much or as little as we want to read into it. In terms of gross trends Samsung is shipping a ton more, smartphone and dumbphone both. Nokia is shipping a ton less, but their dumbphone share is still significant. And Apple is still growing, though not as fast as Samsung. Smartphones are also still growing, and we're increasingly approaching the time when almost all phones are smart.

Once again, these are estimated units shipped only, not necessarily units sold (because most manufacturers not named Apple don't report actual sold-to-customer numbers). It doesn't cover profit share, usage share, customer satisfaction (customer sat!) or anything else.

Apple entered the market with Nokia (Symbian) and BlackBerry at the top of the charts, and they're still in the game now that Samsung fills the shelves.

The assumption about the less expensive iPhone is interesting, however. Apple hasn't announced such a product, though it's been rumored for several years. Recently sales of the 2011 iPhone 4 have grown, due to its relatively low cost. That's pushed down Apple's average selling price, costing them margin and ultimately profit.

That's the thing about the market share game. You can't just play it, you have to play it well. So far, historically, Apple's done that best on profit, Samsung increasingly on volume. Now maybe we'll start to see each broaden their plays. Interesting times.

Source: IDC

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, Vector, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Apple reportedly second biggest smartphone shipper in the world, again

16 Comments

You may want to note that Apple has been the second biggest smartphone shipper in the world for over four years now (the 3GS was the push).

I'm not saying your snide, Rene, but the shipments versus sales comment is. It implies that everyone not Apple is, for some reason no other business person would, storing large quantities of smart phones all over the world to give the impression that they have more market share than they really do. It's a pretty moronic argument and I wish you'd take the lead and change the subject to more relevant matters. I'm assuming they don't report sales because the tax codes in their respective countries tax them more if they list that stat, so they fudge things up a bit for tax relief and breaks. You know, kind of like what Apple does so they don't have to pay taxes here...or in Ireland.

Actually, your assumptions are incorrect. Shipped does count as sold, in that they've sold them to distributors, and as such there is no 'avoiding taxes' angle in that regard. What the author was pointing out is that Apple also reports consumers who have actually activated devices, whereas no other OEM does. Google attempts to, but doesn't distinguish what device was activated.

Actually my assumptions aren't incorrect. When you sell them to a distributor, they can be returned if unsold. This gray window allows companies to push filing of "sold" products to the next quarter or billing cycle. If it wasn't a profitable technique, 99.9% of phone makers wouldn't be doing it.

And what would Google be activating outside of phones, tablets or MP3 players? Google TV's...?

So, clouding sales numbers by reporting only what was sold to vendors rather than giving some sort of indication of how many of their devices end up in consumers' hands is somehow less dubious than working within the existing (and legal) loopholes of an admittedly convoluted and broken tax system? Of course people are actually buying Samsung's products, but why not stand loud and proud, let the world know what an impact they're actually having on consumers? When the iPhone 5 premiered last fall, Apple (very happily) reported that 2,000,000 consumers purchased it. Within twenty-four hours. My point in mentioning Google is that they only have a vested interest in Android activations, regardless of what OEM's devices it's running on. Thus, they do not offer any more clarification as related to said OEMs. Interestingly enough, as I was typing this I got an email from Sprint. They're offering the Samsung Galaxy S III and IV as Buy One, Get One Free, should you want one.

Well what would you do as a biz person? Apple had a great 10 year run, but now they are losing market share at a rapid pace. Their short game was epic, but in 20 years at their current rate of market share loss, their iOS market share will look like their computer market share. I think Samsung and other Android companies are more than fine with that.

Twenty years ago, the benchmark of 'status' was making an appointment with the technician at your local wireless carrier's brick-and-mortar to have your carphone installed. Mobile phones were around, sure, but they were huge and tacky. Do you really think we'll be discussing iPhones or any smartphones for that matter in twenty years?

Not listing sales numbers allows channel stuffing, which has happened over and over again, and made it frustrating if not impossible to accurately report on numbers, leading to a lot of shitty reporting over the years.

I'll make this deal: I'll stop being snide when they start reporting numbers. It's better for investors, better for media, better for consumers, and the tax argument seems nebulous or all companies would behave that way.

My guess is when channel stuffing stops working to artificially inflate market share numbers, they'll start reporting better.

I agree wholeheartedly, Mr. Ritchie. I mentioned in my last reply that Sprint is having a sale: Buy One Galaxy S IV, Get One Free. Now, having worked for that particular carrier as an inventory manager for several years, I've seen first hand how these things work from a carrier's perspective. A device is announced, stock is purchased in anticipation of high sales volume, sales disappoint, the carrier liquidates excess stock. Some money is lost on the front end, but at least a customer can be locked into two long-term contracts.

Here's my problem with the comment Rene. It's very colored as a comment from an investor vs an avid lover of Apple. Why would you care otherwise? It truly doesn't effect 99.9% of customers. Samsung and others made better phones year after year because their customers and lawyers demanded it, that's how they increased market share. I guarantee that Average Joe Smartphone user doesn't know how many Google devices shipped and doesn't care.

"and the tax argument seems nebulous or all companies would behave that way." Who do you mean? Apple or Samsung? Because all companies outside of Apple seem to behave this way. Car companies do it, more or less all electronics companies do it this way. It's pretty standard business practice to post shipments vs sales to do an end around when filing.

These are very nit-picky points on my end, but I hold you to a higher standard than others because you took the podium :)

re: "... sales of the 2011 iPhone 4 have grown, due to its relatively low cost. That's pushed down Apple's average selling price, costing them margin ..."

Not bad. Maybe, if the lower-cost iPhone rumors are true, Apple can keep their margins up by replacing the 1-year old and 2-year old iPhone models with the lower-cost iPhone. It could have most of the components of the previous year's high-end iPhone, but in a lower cost case (plastic) and it would lack some high-end features (fingerprint-reading touchscreen, new camera, dual-LED camera flash, etc.)

For example, if Apple releases a lower-cost iPhone this year, the iPhone line might be like this, with carrier subsidies (in U.S. Dollars):

$199: 16GB iPhone 5S (with 32GB and 64GB at $100 and $200 more)
$99: 16GB iPhone 5L ("L" for "Lower Cost") - with choice of enclosure color
$0: 8GB iPhone 5L - only in black enclosure

The iPhone L would contain last year's iPhone 5 components, which of course would lack the (rumored) fingerprint-sensing touchscreen of the "5S." And the two L models would only differ in storage size. Et voila. Same three-tier pricing, no need to keep making the same iPhone for 3 years.

Next year, the new high-end iPhone would get new hardware features, and this year's high-end iPhone components would be put into next year's iPhone L, minus a few differentiating components. This 2-year cycle may affect economy of scale, because Apple would be buying certain components for 2 years instead of 3 years. And Apple would only be able to amortize much of each year's iPhone development costs over 2 years instead of 3.

But there would be several benefits. Customers wouldn't ever feel like they're buying "last year's model." You might be able to buy a brand new last-year Taurus at the Ford dealer. But not a brand new 2-year-old-model Taurus fresh off the assembly line. That would be intolerable for Ford and most of their customers wouldn't go for it anyway. Apple customers would never need to buy an old iPhone model.

Which also means that Apple could drop their current oddball iPhone numbering scheme. There would just be "this year's iPhone," like there's "this year's Taurus." And "this year's iPhone L," like there's "this year's Fusion." Like Apple currently does with iPad, iPad mini, Mac, MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, etc.

Also, because there would be only two iPhone lines instead of three, Apple's assembly contractors could increase production of both lines without necessarily building out more factory floor space or hiring more workers. (And presumably the L model would have larger tolerances and fewer, simpler assembly steps.)

"It doesn't cover profit share, usage, customer satisfaction (customer sat!) or anything else."

Lmbo. Translated: "Apple lost this one but look at where *we* do win!"

When those "winning" stats come out will you write:
Apple is #1 in customer sat but that doesn't include shipments.

:-D