The iPhone 4S Launch Was More Successful Than the Galaxy S III's ♠

by David J Civera


The iPhone 4S Launch Was More Successful Than the Galaxy S III’s ♠

According to Yonhap News Agency1 Samsung sold more than 10 million Galaxy S III since its official launch on May 29, 2012, when it first went on sale in Europe2. The article gives one piece of data that I found very interesting:

This translates into about 190,000 Galaxy S3s being sold every day

Where Is the Apple Positive Bias?

As I was researching opinions and data for my coverage of this story3, I didn't come across a comparison showing how many iPhone 4S had been sold per day during the first two or three months after the smartphone’s launch. The coverage is often positive for Samsung. The Next Web4 focuses on a comparison with the launch of the Galaxy S II and AFP5 quotes the hotly contested Strategy Analytics study to assert Samsung’s dominance over Apple in the smartphone market during Q1 2012, without mentioning IHS iSuppli’s report that contradicts it6

I fear that the picture is incomplete. Comparing the S III to the S II is normal, but not enough. Putting a phone that people know is on its way out against one that recently launched is short sighted. Samsung is having a successful launch. No one can objectively deny it. But there shouldn't be a cloud of pessimism surrounding some of the Apple coverage in relation to Samsung’s sales. If we compare the launch of the two products, Apple still has the best smartphone introduction to market.

Determining the number of iPhone 4S sold per day during the first three months of its launch and understanding what it means

To determine how many iPhone 4S were sold during the first three months of its launch, I’ll rely on one data point given by Apple. On January 24, 2012, it reported having sold 37.04 million iPhones between October 1st and December 31st, 20117. During the conference, Tim Cook stated8 that, “The iPhone 4S was the most popular iPhone” during that time frame.

If we take the most conservative approach and estimate that only half of the iPhones sold during that time were iPhone 4S, we can assume that Apple sold 18.52 million of them. If we now divide this by 90 (a three month period at 30 days per month), we get a total of 205,777.8 phones per day. This is superior to Samsung’s 190,000 phones per day.

Let’s balance those numbers a bit. Apple sold its phone during the Christmas quarter, which is always a very favorable time of the year and means the company benefited from a seasonal advantage Samsung didn’t have. Furthermore, the Korean suffered from limited stocks of the Galaxy S III, which reduced the total number of phones sold9 10. However, we must also remember that the computation above is extremely conservative. Apple most likely sold a lot more iPhone 4S beating Samsung’s launch by a wider margin. Indeed, during the first three days following the introduction, Apple was selling more than one million units per day11. We must also consider that while Samsung speaks of shipments, Apple speaks of actual sales.

Here’s my take from all this. The numbers show that no smartphone has had a more popular launch than the iPhone 4S. The wild enthusiasm from some member of the press around Samsung’s numbers most likely come from the fact that there’s finally a company that is able to rival Apple on this market. However, I would point everyone to the latest podcast of Horace Dediu12 who clearly shows that caution is a more pertinent feeling than jubilation. Samsung’s business model in the smartphone sector remains potentially fragile.


  1. Galaxy S3 smartphone sales top 10 mln mark: executive, Yonhap News Agency, 07/22/12.  ↩

  2. David Civera, Lancement et soucis du Galaxy S III, Tom’s Hardware France, 05/30/12.  ↩

  3. David Civera, 10 millions de Galaxy S III dans la nature, Tom’s Hardware France, 07/23/12.  ↩

  4. Matt Brian, Samsung’s Galaxy S III surpasses 10 million sales in less than two months, The Next Web, 07/22/12.  ↩

  5. Samsung ‘sells 10 mn Galaxy SIII smartphones’, AFP, 07/22/12.  ↩

  6. Wayne Lam, Samsung Overtakes Nokia for Cellphone Lead, IHS iSuppli, 04/26/12.  ↩

  7. Apple Reports First Quarter Results, Apple, 01/24/12.  ↩

  8. Apple’s CEO Discusses Q1 2012 Results - Earnings Call Transcript, Seeking Alpha, 01/24/12.  ↩

  9. Cosmin Vasile, Pebble Blue Galaxy S III Shortage Explained by Samsung (Official), Softpedia, 05/29/12.  ↩

  10. Samsung Canada, Twitter, 06/15/12.  ↩

  11. iPhone 4S First Weekend Sales Top Four Million, Apple  ↩

  12. Dediu, Benjamin, The Next Victim, The Critical Path, episode 46, 07/18/12.  ↩