Apple Bears Down on Samsung in Overall US Mobile Sales
iPhone has overtaken LG in U.S. sales, setting the stage for a showdown with archrival Samsung. Together, they control about half of the market, but the difference in their approach is striking, said Wayne Lam, senior analyst at IHS iSuppli. "Apple leads with one product at the highest end, whereas Samsung addresses every segment of every market, from the biggest and largest phones to smaller affordable devices."
Apple edged past LG in the latest quarter to grab second place in U.S. mobile phone sales, intensifying the competition with its main competitor, Samsung. Meanwhile, the iPhone 5 will begin selling in 50 new international markets in the next few weeks.
Prior to the third quarter, iPhone sales had come slightly short of analyst expectations. Sales of iPhones fell as rumors spread that the newest iPhone was on its way, and once it hit, supply had trouble keeping up with demand, with wait times for an iPhone 5 reaching a month.
Now that supply is catching up, however, Apple sold 26.9 million iPhones during the third calendar quarter, taking a 17.8 percent share of the U.S. market. Samsung led the pack, taking a 27.3 percent share of the space.
iPhone sales beat most Wall Street sales expectations, generally around 25 million units sold, or 17.8 percent of the market. The numbers rose 58 percent from the same period a year ago. It was enough for the company to just beat out LG, which took the third-place spot and a 17.6 percent share of the market. In previous 2012 reports, LG and even Motorola had come in ahead of Apple in the rankings.
Heating Up Against Samsung
Apple had already surpassed LG in worldwide sales. ComScore's latest report is an indication that the smartphone race is increasingly a fight between two big dogs: Apple and Samsung. Each company has assumed the role of the other's chief rival, both in courtroom battles and in retail sales.
Even though the companies lead the smartphone industry, the difference between the two is striking, Wayne Lam, senior analyst at IHS iSuppli, pointed out.
"There is an interesting dynamic between these two," he told MacNewsWorld. "The two brands combined take about 50 percent of the market, and have really demonstrated two very different product marketing and philosophy. Apple leads with one product at the highest end, whereas Samsung addresses every segment of every market, from the biggest and largest phones to smaller affordable devices. Samsung chases and captures every opportunity, and their success is really by sheer scale and sheer amount of engineering prowess. Apple is more of a consumer electronic company."
Given that stark differences in approach, it's remarkable that Apple has been able to stay as competitive as it has in the smartphone race, said Ben Bajarin, director and founder of Creative Strategies.
"The fact that Apple keeps it as close a race as it is, with such a limited lineup, against a company that sells an army of phones, is impressive," he told MacNewsWorld.
Still, Apple understands the market is evolving, said Lam, predicting that it may be moving away from its infrequent, high-profile product launches, he noted, especially as the fight intensifies.
"Samsung is really capitalizing on this market," he pointed out. "I think looking toward the future of the industry, Apple will likely quicken the pace with its product releases and try to capture and sustain a lot of the excitement it's been able to generate around its marquee line."
The excitement of a launch is building around the world. Apple will begin selling the iPhone 5 in more than 50 countries over the next two weeks, including South Korea, Russia, Brazil, Taiwan and the United Arab Emirates. Most notably, the iPhone 5 is hitting shelves in China on Dec. 14. Many smartphone makers have hoped to capitalize on the massive market, and Apple is hoping its latest smartphone can be a hit in the country.
While there's no doubt that the iPhone 5 will generate buzz abroad and in China, those sales won't be game-changing, at least not yet, said Bajarin.
"China is a key battle ground but the iPhone still needs to get on all the major Chinese carriers, which it is not," he pointed out. "The iPhone 5, even subsidized, is still expensive in China, which is actually a key driver as many Chinese consumers are aspirational consumers and strive to buy luxury or premium brands even if they can't afford it."
In the meantime, the company is doing what it can to make sure its established in what could be a key market for the Apple.
"Out of all the regions outside of U.S. and Europe, I think China is the big key battleground and one that I know Apple is taking seriously," said Bajarin. "That being said, it is hard to find a single device with the kind of broad global distribution and store support as Apple products."
Apple did not respond to our request to comment for this story.