September 6, 2012

Samsung Sells 20M+ Galaxy S IIIs In 100 Days: A Benchmark Or A Red Herring For Apple, Nokia, Amazon?


Nokia and Motorola had their day in the device spotlight yesterday, and today it Amazon’s turn, with Apple’s next week. So in the middle of all of this, just to make sure we don’t forget about it, Samsung has released some numbers on sales of its newest smartphone, the Galaxy S III.

Samsung has sold over 20 million units of the handset in the first 100 days of launch: 6 million in Europe, 4.5 million in Asia (ex. Korea), 4 million in North America and 2.5  million in Korea. Samsung is the world’s biggest mobile phone company at the moment, so should sales of its flagship device be viewed as a benchmark for competitors?

While we don’t have like-for-like numbers, we do have some historical figures that give us some points to ponder, and in my opinion, the only company that Samsung’s figures should matter for is Nokia.

Apple’s last launch, the iPhone 4S, sold 4 million devices its first weekend out of the gate.

And Nokia yesterday told analysts that it had sold 7 million Lumia devices since launch in October last year (that’s the whole range of four models).

Samsung’s Galaxy S III sales therefore put it somewhere between those two, closer to the Apple end of the spectrum. Samsung’s prominence in mobile phones, remember, comes from its scale and range of devices, not the success of a single model.

So how does that translate into what happens going forward with new device launches? Samsung notes that the S III has picked up momentum versus previous versions of the device: in the same space of 100 days from launch, Samsung sold three times as many units as the S II, and six times as many as the Galaxy S.

But I suspect a lot of that momentum is a function of how smartphones are simply growing in popularity. Apple’s iPhone 4S, dubbed a disappointment by many observers when it was revealed, actually sold twice as many units as its predecessor, the iPhone 4, did in its opening weekend.

Partly because it looks like this next iPhone will represent a real evolution over the 4S, and partly because there is simply pent-up demand for a new iPhone, the momentum trend should also give a big boost to Apple this time around. One analyst, Gene Munster of Piper Jaffray, has already predicted that the iPhone “5″ will sell as many as 10 million units in its opening weekend.

At that rate it could take 14 days or less for Apple to kick Samsung’s 20 million figure into irrelevance. Samsung’s number therefore might look good, but are in fact a Red Herring.

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