South Korea's Samsung may have sold more phones in the last quarter than mobile phone giant Nokia, according to a new report. Bloomberg estimated last week that Samsung may have shipped about 92 million mobile phones in the first quarter of 2012, compared with 83 million units sold by Nokia. A separate report by Asymco analyst Horace Dediu gave the "low" figure for Samsung as 85 million phones to as many as 91 million phones.
The above figures take into consideration both smartphones and low-end models, though the contrast is even more stark when comparing smartphones; an estimated 44 million smartphones sold by Samsung versus 12 million by Nokia. While figures are yet to be finalized, the growing clout of Samsung in the area of advanced smartphones is undeniable, driven primarily by a bewildering array of Android-powered devices.
Samsung has attempted to hedge its bets too, and has invested in other platforms such its homegrown "Bada" smartphone operating system, albeit with more limited success. A January report on Forbes pegged the number of Bada phones at about 2% of the global smartphone market in 2011, though its standing at the moment is unclear.
Popularity of Samsung Galaxy Note
For the global tit-for-tat litigation between Apple and Samsung that started with Apple accusing Samsung of copying the iPhone, Samsung does have design winners of its own. For example, Samsung last month revealed that it has sold five million Galaxy Note smartphones since its launch in October 2011. This is a remarkable feat, considering that the official release date of the Android smartphone with its huge stylus-optimized, 5.3-inch display in the U.S. took place in the second half of February by AT&T.
At that time, some commentators expressed skepticism over the figures, though Samsung has since confirmed that the numbers represent the units sold, not just shipped. Samsung's PR representative in Singapore was not able to furnish me with a more detailed breakdown of the sales figure, but it is not unreasonable to assume that the majority of the five million sold were derived from sales in Asia and Europe.
If so, this could well mean that the potential of the Galaxy Note is still far from peaking. In an affirmation of the company's confidence in its product, Samsung also launched a pink edition of the Galaxy Note (see below) in Singapore two days ago. The pink edition was released first in South Korea earlier in the week on April 9.
Strategy of launching in Asia first?
The release schedule for some of the company's hottest products appears to point towards a strategy of releasing first in South Korea, followed by the Asia region and then Europe and the U.S. For example, I was able to review a Galaxy Note in December as part of a Samsung marketing event in December 2011 - months before its U.S. launch. The upcoming 2012 Samsung Series 9 laptop too, is already available in South Korea, but not yet shipped to other regions.
It is impossible to tell if this is a deliberate part of the company's release strategy, or incidental due to issues pertaining to regulations, production capacity or even as a means to further test its products prior to ramping up production.
For now at least, the huge numbers of Android smartphones being sold and the current trend of BYOD does mean that companies building mobile-centric business applications are unlikely to go wrong by focusing first on the Android platform, followed by iPhone. Or until Microsoft can gain a more substantial market share with the likes of the Nokia Lumia 900 and other Windows Phone devices, or RIM manages to pull off a comeback with its new BlackBerry 10 platform.
Paul Mah is a writer and blogger who lives in Singapore, where he has worked for a number of years in various capacities within the IT industry. Paul enjoys tinkering with tech gadgets, smartphones, and networking devices.