Apple and Samsung See Virtual Tie in Q3 U.S. Sales, Nokia Seizes Fourth

Mobile sales tracking firm Counterpoint Research’s latest estimates of U.S. smartphone sales in Q3 2013 bring few surprises as the industry trends we’ve seen playing out for the last year or so continued to run their course.
I. Counterpoint — U.S. Quarterly Sales
Nokia Oyj.’s (HEX:NOK1V) devices unit — a division which Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) takes ownership of in Q4 — continued its strong growth.  The Windows Phone maker seized 4.1 percent of the U.S. market with its colorful Lumia lineup, which is good enough for fourth place.  The phonemaker roughly tripled its Q2 2013 sales share, which had been at 1.4 percent.
Third place LG Electronics, Inc. (KSC:066570), meanwhile, continued its quiet, unheralded sales success in the U.S. and global markets, taking 8.6 percent of sales.  That was down slightly from Q2 2013; the number indicate that Nokia appears to be the main party to cannibalized a bit of the South Korean OEM’s sales.

In fifth place was Motorola Mobility, with 3.7 percent of sales.  The Google Inc. (GOOG) first-party Android phonemaker hasn’t experienced its best year in the U.S. sales-wise, selling roughly half as many units as it did the year before.  But in Q3 it appeared that the losses had stabilized, with Motorola selling a fraction more than the 3.6 percent of sales it command in Q2 2013.
In a rough tie for first place were Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (KSC:005930) and Apple, Inc. (AAPL)  — something that should come as no surprise to tech observers.  In Q2 Samsung was narrowly ahead, in Q3 the script was flipped with Apple being ahead by an even narrow margin.  Apple commanded 33.7 percent of sales; Samsung won 33.6 percent of them.  Together the pair controlled two thirds of smartphone sales in the U.S.

SamsApple… er… Samsung and Apple continued to dominate U.S. sales in Q3. [Image Source: Prefix]
It wouldn’t be surprising to see Apple seize a small lead in Q4 in the U.S., based on pent-up demand, and the gains it saw in Q3.  Q3 included only 10 days worth of sales of the iPhone 5C and iPhone 5S, which launched on Sept. 20.
Blackberry Ltd. now has just a little over 1 percent of the U.S. market as it continues its slow march towards the grave, with few left watching or interested.  
Of the Chinese legion ZTE Corp. (SHE:000063) was in sixth and Huawei Technologies Comp. (SHE:002502) took eight place.  Japan’s Kyocera Corp. (TYO:6971) also hovered outside the top five, in seventh place.  In some ways it was the biggest surprise as the well-known feature phone maker wasn’t even in the top 10 in similar rankings last year.  It is becoming a niche player thanks to its ruggedized smartphones like the Android-powered Hydro Elite 4G LTE and Torque (which generally come free with a two-year contract).
II. Comscore — Active Devices by OEM, Usage Estimate
In terms of a more long-term look at where the market is at in terms of data usage by OEM and total device-base by OEM, comScore’s numbers are interesting.  Like Counterpoint’s they show a small uptick in Apple’s U.S. usage for the quarter, likely from the new models.
In July-October Apple captured 40.8 percent of traffic, while Samsung saw 25.4 percent.

It’s important not to lose sight of the context of these figures, which again only show usage not sales.  They also only show changes in usage, not who grew the most in the quarter among all OEMs.  For that reason Nokia (who likely was fourth in U.S. sales) didn’t even make the list.  Likewise Motorola and HTC Corp. (TPE:2498) — two Android OEMs that plummeted ins ales in 2013 managed to claim fifth place and third place, respectively.

Listen to that one more time — HTC was in third place in ComScore’s rankings.  It was ninth in actual sales for the quarter, according to ComScore.  That figure emphasizes the importance of recognizing usage data as a long-running score sheet of who had the best runs averaged over the last few years — not a tally of who is currently the hottest sellers.
iPhone 5S
  For that reason I feel headlines like TheNextWeb‘s “comScore: Apple takes 40.6% share as top US smartphone maker…” are misleadingly worded, if technically correct.  Such phrasing fails to immediately convey that this is usage by the total legacy install base, not quarterly sales.  Some readers may skim over and miss this distinction altogether.

It should also be mentioned that it’s been well noted that iOS users tend to use slightly more data than Android users.  While that gap has been closing, and in some cases may even have reversed, it likely still effectively inflated Apple’s perceived marketshare a bit in the ComScore numbers.