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Samsung sales show why Apple is scared

Galaxy S III overtakes iPhone as most popular US smartphone as Samsung dominates on both sides of Atlantic


Published: 5 September, 2012

READ MORE: Metrics | Samsung | Handset | Android

It's clear why Apple has added Samsung's Galaxy S III to its list of patent infringement targets. The handset beat the iPhone 4S to be the US's most popular smartphone in August, as the Korean firm consolidated its market lead on both sides of the Atlantic.

Of course, Apple sales have been curbed lately by the wait for the new iPhone, but during the waiting period for that launch - and for any court hearings about the S III, only recently added to Apple's series of lawsuits - Samsung is making hay.

According to data and carrier checks by analysts at Canaccord Genuity, the iPhone 4S fell to second place in the US for the first time since its launch last fall, and the S III was the bestseller at three of the big four cellcos (predictably, it remains top dog at long term Apple partner AT&T, which saw the S III in second place and the HTC One X in third). At Verizon Wireless, the S III had overtaken the iPhone in July and in August slipped to third place, with the Motorola RAZR MAXX in second. T-Mobile has no iPhone, of course, and its top three were the S III, HTC One S, and the older S II. At Sprint, which has made a massive commitment to iPhone sales, the 4S was second to the S III, with the HTC EVO 4G LTE in third position.

Samsung's summer bonanza in Apple's strongest market shows it made a good decision to launch the S III to most US carriers in June, unlike the S II, which was launched in May 2011 but was not available with all the big four until November, by which time the iPhone 4S had shipped. This sees Samsung taking advantage of the shift of Apple's own launch cycle from early summer to the fall, which concentrates the iOS giant's handset revenues more on the holiday season. In effect, the Korean firm has a free run in the summer, though a tougher battle to shine with its own holiday period launches.

It also speeded the time to market for the S III - and indicated its growing brand profile in the US - by delivering the same smartphone name and design to all the US cellcos (apart from band differences of course). With the S II, it created a different variant, each with a different brand name, for each of the big four. This spiked the cellcos' interest by giving them something semi-exclusive to promote, but in 2012, they have recognized the increased consumer appeal of putting Samsung's own labels center stage as the vendor's stock rises among buyers.

In other statistics, IDC's latest quarterly handset figures showed Samsung strengthening its grip on the western European cellphone space, once the unchallenged kingdom of Nokia. The market was tough because of the regional recession, with overall handset shipments of 42.1m, down by almost 2% from 42.9m in the year-ago second quarter. But Samsung's shipments were up to 17.3m, from 13.9m in Q211, giving it 41.1% share, surpassing the 40% which used to be Nokia's 'magic target' in the good old days. Nokia was still clinging to second place in the overall cellphone market in its home region, and actually slowed its decline, as its Lumia smartphones and Asha featurephones gain recognition. But the Finnish vendor shipped less than half the number of units of its rival, at 8.1m, down from 9m a year earlier, and amounting to 19.2% of the market.

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