The iPhone's Power vs. Samsung's Surging Strength
New numbers from Strategy Analytics show that for the first time, Samsung shipped more smartphones globally than Apple over a recent three-month period. The standings add heat to an already-hot rivalry that's spilled into courtrooms all over the world in the form of patent disputes. However, that period covered by the numbers ended before the release of the iPhone 4S.
11/02/11 5:00 AM PT
Siri has become the star feature of the new iPhone 4S. The voice recognition technology blends convenient utility with a dash of techno-personality. It's capable of managing contacts, taking dictation for an email, and offering up witty banter about a seemingly endless variety of subjects.
It's also capable of driving iPhone sales through the roof.
But the software offers no fun for users of Apple's earlier phones like the iPhone 4. Although Siri is technically a software improvement, it was not bundled in with Apple's free iOS 5 upgrade. To get Siri, one has to buy an iPhone 4S.
Hacker Steven Troughton-Smith wanted to change that.
His findings revealed that Siri can indeed be made to run on an iPhone 4, according to a video on 9to5Mac. However, the operation was a highly technical one that most consumers wouldn't opt to attempt themselves. Also, in order to work, Siri must connect with Apple's servers. There's a good chance that Apple could crack down on non-4S devices trying to operate the software.
In limiting Siri to its newest phone, Apple may be attempting to drive new sales. It's also possible Apple's servers might not be prepared to handle the influx of users if it had made Siri available to millions of existing iPhone 4 units. In the first couple days after Siri launched, and then more sporadically afterward, iPhone 4S users complained about Siri being down.
Siri is one component of the new iPhone keeping customers happy and lines long, but new numbers released from Strategy Analytics show that for the first time, Samsung shipped more smartphones globally than Apple did during a recent three-month period.
The report states that Samsung shipped 27.8 million handsets, or 23.8 percent of global smartphone shipments. In the same period -- before the iPhone 4S was released -- Apple came in second, shipping 17.1 million units, or 14.6 percent of shipments. Nokia trailed Apple closely, with 14.4 percent of shipments. Overall smartphone shipments were up 44 percent from last year, largely in part to increased sales in emerging markets.
Though it's the first time Samsung and its Android handsets have topped the list of smartphone shipments, there's little reason for Apple to be alarmed yet. The time period reported on was measured just before the iPhone 4S was released, reflecting a consumer base that was waiting for the update.
Since then, iPhone 4S sales have broken sales records. With many retailers, customers still have to reserve a phone instead of just walking into the store and being able to buy one, a phenomenon that doesn't normally occur with Samsung devices.
More importantly, smartphones being shipped doesn't necessarily mean the devices are being bought.
"You have to look at the sell-through data. With the iPhone 4S, the sell-through is extremely solid. If that were the case with Samsung, you'd have to say, 'wow, they did something right,' but shipment isn't always relevant because anyone can produce and ship a certain number of phones, but if they're not being bought, that's another story," Trip Chowdhry, senior analyst for Global Equities Research, told MacNewsWorld.
Waxing and Waning Normal
Slight ups and downs are expected in smartphone sales, especially in a dense market, and Samsung is currently capitalizing on all the ups. It's tapping into a largely untouched global market and is offering dependable, well-received handsets at lower prices than the iPhone. It also has many more offerings than Apple's single mobile line.
Apple's strengths include its marketing, creation of an ecosystem and staying power, though, and not many consumers are ready to move on from the latest and greatest iPhone. The company has taught its users to continue that marketing cycle through word of mouth via their Apple gadgets, and the loyal user base grows.
"We see that iPhone 4S users are both delighted and talking loudly about their experiences in social media. Users report high satisfaction on iPhone 4S for speed and performance, usability, the operating system and camera. A great user experience wins every time," Robyn Palmer, cirector of Marcomm for Argus Insights, told MacNewsWorld.
Though the growing competition from Samsung will likely make the heated patent battles between the two companies even more vicious, this isn't a giant threat to the iPhone maker in the foreseeable future.
"Customers continue to report increased delight with the iPhone 4S over time. The Samsung Galaxy S II is following a typical launch pattern where delight is high and then wanes, buzz is high and then wanes. Apple has no need for concern -- yet," said Palmer.