A first look at Samsung's US Android business

Samsung and Apple’s lawsuit continues to be a goldmine of operating data. Released this morning: quarterly sales for a wide spread of Samsung Android phones in the USA, together with comparable Apple data. We already knew Apple US smartphone sales, more or less, since the US operators disclose them, so there were no big surprises on that front, but the Samsung data is fascinating. 

(NOTE: the Samsung data does not include the S3, which went on sale in Q2, so I’ve cut off the analysis at Q1)

I’ve spent most of today pondering different ways to look at this: these two charts are just one angle. 

First, Apple and Samsung at the high level:

  • Samsung tablet sales are tiny: just 1.44m from Q4 2012 to Q2 2012, in which period Apple sold 29.7m iPads in the US. Of course, this doesn’t include the Galaxy Note, but it points to the total failure of direct competitors to the iPad 
  • Assuming Samsung had, say, 50% of the US tablet market, which seems reasonable, that implies that total US Android sales in the period were perhaps 3m, giving the platform just 9% market share 
  • Samsung is selling smartphones at an average of less than half Apple (again, not a surprise: this is where all branded Android OEMs come in)
  • Samsung US Android sales of around 12.5m in the last 12 months were less than half Apple’s 36m iPhones
  • Samsung has a run-rate share of about 12-15% of the US smartphone market by volume, and perhaps a third of the Android market (versus 50% of Android globally)

And what to make of those tablet numbers? I argued here that the Android tablet market is very opaque - and also that the majority of Android tablet sales are small cheap low-spec devices running Android 2.3 or even 2.2 selling in emerging markets. This looks like validation. 

This chart is a little harder to read but equally interesting: it shows every Samsung handset on sale in the USA the last two years, on the same basis as the previous chart: 

  • Samsung’s ASP groups at the $200 and lower point and at $350 and higher, a function of subsidy dynamics
  • None of Samsung’s phones sell more than 2m or so units
  • Samsung has a LOT of phones on the market - 15-20 at any given point, and this is just Android
  • Not captured in these charts: each Samsung handset makes most of its sales in the first two quarters on sale and has a rapidly shrinking ASP: these charts show the sales and ASP for the total life. 

In effect, Samsung, as Nokia used to do, is running a broad portfolio strategy, moving multiple handsets in out of the market almost every quarter. The prominent messaging around the Galaxy S2 and S3 (the latter isn’t captured in the data Samsung disclosure) belies a much broader product offer. 

Finally, as pointed out here, this is one of the few occasions where those people whose business is to make totally blind guesses with the appearance of certainty have been caught out.