With Smartphone Sales, Samsung Is Already Pulling Ahead of Apple

By selling inexpensive models in emerging markets, Samsung is rapidly gaining market share.

In the race for global smartphone sales, Apple and Samsung have pulled away from the rest of the field over the past two years. But in terms of grabbing overall market share, Samsung has been in a league all its own.

Apple’s share of the market began trending upward with the release of the iPhone 4S in October 2011, but shipments were down in the second quarter of this year compared to the first, with many consumers apparently waiting for the new model. According to IDC, the company’s once-a-year release cycle has historically led to a drop in sales in the two quarters leading up to the introduction of the next generation of its phone.

Year-over-year, iPhone sales numbers are still increasing, though. It shipped nearly 26 million phones during the second quarter of 2012—up from 20.4 million in that quarter in 2011, according to IDC. Samsung, meanwhile, shipped 50 million phones during the second quarter—up from just 18 million a year ago.

The chart above shows that while Apple’s worldwide market share has not really grown, Samsung’s has skyrocketed from 10 percent just two years ago to 32 percent in the second quarter of 2012. Samsung’s approach is a big reason for this. Whereas Apple offers only a few high-end options, Samsung casts a wider net, offering expensive iPhone competitors as well as a range of less-expensive models. Many of these lower-end models have been released since the beginning of 2011 and have gained traction in emerging markets like China, India, Indonesia, and across Latin America.  

In the U.S., Apple has retained the largest smartphone market share, with 31 percent in the second quarter of 2012. Samsung’s share in the U.S. was 24 percent, according to the NPD Group.

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