With 10 million Galaxy S III smartphones sold so far, Samsung is pulling into a more comfortable lead over rival Apple.
The impressive success of Samsung's latest flagship Android smartphone, the Galaxy S III, has helped the company pull ahead of Apple in the ultracompetitive smartphone market, according to a report from mobile analyst firm Juniper Research.
In the second quarter of 2012, Juniper estimates Samsung shipped 52.1 million smartphones, slightly more than double the number shipped by its leading rival, Apple, which is estimated to have shipped 26 million iPhones.
The report noted Samsung has had particular success in marketing the Android operating system on smartphones across multiple price categories, while competitors like BlackBerry maker Research In Motion, which shipped 7.4 million smartphones in the second quarter, continue to struggle with the transition to the touch-screen era and an OS which lacks the user base to attract developers. Earlier this month, the head of RIM's developer program, Alec Sauders, had to issue a public denial that developers, frustrated over the delays in BlackBerry 10, were losing interest in the BlackBerry platform.
Despite the struggles of RIM, Nokia, which has yet to benefit from a highly touted partnership with Microsoft and the Windows Phone 7 platform, and Android competitors HTC and Motorola (which Juniper said has been distracted by its acquisition by Google), the overall smartphone market continues to show strong growth with the analyst firm estimating that 132.9 million units shipped in the second quarter of 2012, up from 105.2 million a year ago.
Juniper research analyst Daniel Ashdown noted Sony has the strongest potential to make gains in the market, as it boasts worldwide name recognition and needs to step up and offer more interesting products that will connect with consumers. Sony should be doing better: it, like Samsung, has a global name and the Xperia brand is well established, but its marketing and products have been disappointing so far, he noted in a prepared statement.
With Samsung's Android smartphones finding an audience at several price points, Apple has responded by lowering the price of its legacy iPhones. Juniper warned that in order to remain competitive, Apple would have to debut a major feature, akin to the Siri digital concierge that debuted on the iPhone 4S, to compete with the growing number of sophisticated Android devices. That iPhone feature will most likely be a larger 4-inch screen to replace the 3.5-inch screen currently found on all iPhones. The latest iteration of the iPhone, generally referred to as the iPhone 5, is expected to debut sometime in September or October.
[Samsung] has also doubled its lead over Apple quarter-on-quarter, with its flagship Galaxy S3 playing a key role, having achieved sales of 10 million in June, the Juniper report noted. However, with consumers waiting for the next iPhone expected later in the year, Apple will undoubtedly narrow the gap.
Indeed, the eagerly awaited new iPhone could have record sales in its future, according to a ChangeWave survey recently reported by the 451 Group, which found an unprecedented level of advance demand for the next iPhone. In addition, Canaccord Genuity analyst Michael Walkley, in a July 25 report, wrote that his firm expects Apple to have strong December quarter results, to regain its global smartphone share through the holiday shopping season and to grow its leading share of industry profits.
Nathan Eddy is Associate Editor, Midmarket, at eWEEK.com. Before joining eWEEK.com, Nate was a writer with ChannelWeb and he served as an editor at FierceMarkets. He is a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.