Samsung Reportedly Dethrones Apple as Top Smartphone Vendor in Q3 2011
Samsung Electronics Co. shipped more than 20 million smartphones in the quarter ended Sept. 30, a person familiar with the situation said Thursday, beating market leader Apple Inc. as well as Nokia Corp., the world's biggest cellphone maker by volume.
The South Korean company benefited from a push into the high end; demand is robust for phones that consumers can use to watch videos, download movies and send email. The company is also taking advantage of the popularity of Google Inc.'s Android operating system, while also stepping up production in Europe of phones using its own software and software from Microsoft Corp.
The comparison is a bit fuzzy as Samsung earlier this year halted public disclosure of its smartphone sales numbers, forcing observers to rely on unofficial sources and industry analysis.
Several observers have also noted that Samsung's number refers to shipments while Apple's refers to sales, although those metrics may not be vastly different. Apple's "sales" numbers actually refer to sales into the distribution channel rather than end users, and Apple noted during its earnings conference call that channel inventory had declined by 180,000 units quarter-to-quarter. That decline meant that actually sold approximately 17.25 million units to end users, compared to 17.07 million units delivered into the channel.
With Samsung apparently pushing over 20 million units into the channel last quarter, the company would have had to have significantly increased its channel inventory of devices still on store shelves in order to have not surpassed Apple even in sales to end users. Unlike the tablet market where Apple's competitors have flooded the market with shipments that have not been sold to end users, the smartphone market is established enough that channel inventories should be relatively stable and sell-through numbers should be relatively close to sell-in numbers.