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Samsung soars in third quarter as Galaxy far, far away from rivals


by on October 26th, 2012

And so, after the conference calls, the analysis. Apple and Samsung – now firmly established as the main players in smart device shipments – have just released their respective results for the three months ended September 30, and both can take at least some comfort from the figures that have emerged.

Samsung first. The vendor shipped more than 56 million smartphones over the period, well over double the amount it achieved in the comparable period last year. With sales bolstered by the success of the Galaxy III – more than 20 million sold in just over three months after its May launch – the vendor is now out on its own at the head of the market with a 36% share.

Next up, Apple, which reversed the dip of iPhone sales that occurred at this point last year, largely through the surge in sales late in the quarter resulting from the launch of the iPhone 5: the launch weekend in September saw more than 5 million shipped, or nearly 20% of sales for the entire quarter. I shall touch on tablet sales in a moment; but on the smartphone side at least, Apple’s results are better than expected.

While shipment figures from the other players are fairly mixed, most are broadly in line with expectations. But what this slew of results reveals, firstly, is that on a global base, the smartphone market is still is fairly rude health: despite the continuing impact of the economic downturn, Q3 shipments rose by 37% y-o-y to 157 million, suggesting that total shipments for the full year should be close to 650 million. Put another way, nearly 1 person in 10 worldwide will buy a smartphone this year.

Conversely, the lower than anticipated sales of the iPad  - up 26% y-o-y, but down 18% q-o-q – would suggest that it is the consumer tablet space which is feeling the pinch. While Tim Cook has said that the decline was in part attributable to seasonal variations, and in part due to “new product rumours” (“I hear there’s this iPad Mini coming out.” “Really? Better hold fire until we know for certain”), the scale of the decline relative to the corresponding performance twelve months ago (when sales rose 20% q-o-q) suggests that other factors are at work. Certainly, seasonality does impact sales in July-September, because we’re all waiting for the run up to Christmas before we embark on our annual spending spree, but it is also reasonable to suggest that the higher price point of tablets relative to smartphones makes them more susceptible to the downturn: the fact that they are nice to have rather than must have also comes into play here.

Hence, the positive figures on economic growth that have emerged in the US and UK  over the past week in turn suggest that the future outlook for the tablet market might also be rosier, in those markets at least. In which case, come December, Santa had better ensure he is well stocked with iPads and sundry other smart devices …

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