NPD: iPhone 3GS Outsold Every Android Smartphone in Q3

| Analysis

Apple’s iPhone 4 was the top selling phone in the world for its entire reign at the top of Apple’s iPhone product line, but according to market research firm NPD, even Apple’s iPhone 3GS outsold every Android smartphone on the market.

In a release, the company said that the top five phones of the third quarter, which ended in September, were:

  1. Apple iPhone 4
  2. Apple iPhone 3GS
  3. HTC EVO 4G
  4. Motorola Droid 3
  5. Samsung Intensity II

In other words, Apple’s iPhone 4, which was more than a year old during the quarter, was the #1 phone during the quarter, while Apple’s 25 month-old iPhone 3GS was also enough to beat every single one of the latest and greatest Android device, including all of the 4G LTE devices that had been released in the previous six months.

These results demonstrate both the strength and weakness of Apple’s business model of offering a very limited number of models that are differentiated only by how much storage they have. During the 3rd quarter, Apple offered the iPhone 3GS and the iPhone 4 in two colors with three different storage sizes each. So, while Apple has the #2 smartphone platform, it has the #1 and #2 devices.

Compare that to Samsung, which sells Android and Windows Phone smartphones. A quick look on Samsung’s “Phone” landing page asks customers to browse by carrier, not by device. The more adventuresome can view all 136 models Samsung makes (that includes feature phones as well as smartphones). In some cases, even when Samsung sells the same device on more than one carrier, they have different features and even different form factors.

136 Models!

From Samsung’s Phone Page, “View All 136”

But all those models add up. Apple may have had the top two devices during the quarter, but Samsung was the #1 mobile device maker during the quarter, just like Android has been the #1 smartphone platform for much of the last year.

Then again, Apple takes a monstrous portion of the entire cell phone industry’s profits. This not only relates to the fact that Apple commands a much higher premium for its iPhone devices, it also makes a higher profit per device because of its highly concentrated product line.

During the November quarter, Apple will be offering three iPhone models, the iPhone 4S, the iPhone 4, and the going-on-three-years old iPhone 3GS, which will be free with a two year contract at AT&T. We would expect that lineup to result in Apple claiming the top three spots in rankings such as NPD’s.

The image below is a comparison to Apple’s and Samsung’s mobile product lines (limited to the first of nine pages of Samsung phones).

iPhone vs. Samsung

iPhone 4S, iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS vs. an Alphabet Soup of Smartphones

As we have repeatedly noted, there are many metrics with which to pass some kind of arbitrary judgement on who is beating whom in the smartphone market, but the reality is that Apple is playing a different game than OEMs like Samsung, HTC, and Motorola Mobility. The company’s goals are also far, far different from Google’s when it comes to that company’s Android platform.

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Did you exclude Windows Phone devices from the Samsung total?


Or, you know, exclude the rest of the world except for the US?


“Did you exclude Windows Phone devices from the Samsung total?”

No, apparently not. But even if they had done so, you still wouldn’t see any significant difference in the quoted numbers, since M$‘s Total Worldwide Smartphone Sales to EndUsers in Q3 2011 was only 1.5% (of which, how much was Samsung’s - even half of that?) *

“Or, you know, exclude the rest of the world except for the US?”

No - obviously not.

* FOOTNOTE: Total Worldwide Smartphone Sales to EndUsers by OS in Q3 2011 (Gartner): 
- M$: 1.7019M units (only1.5% of Total 115M units)
- iOS: 17.2953 units (15.0% of Total 115M units)
- Android: 60.4904M units (52.5% of Total 115M units)

Hank Shiffman

I was at a customer presentation where Tim Cook explained how Steve saved Apple.  A lot of it had to do with the large number of similar Macintosh models they had at the time, made from a collection of different parts.  All that inventory was costing the company a fortune, one they didn’t have.  Steve switched over to a very small number of products, with a Build To Order process that let a customer get a custom configuration delivered in no time at all.  Keeps design costs down, keeps engineering costs down and keeps manufacturing costs down.  It’s a lesson they learned well, and one they’ve clearly applied to the iPhone and the rest of their products.


Bryan, one of the most astute and original endeavour in thought, design and penmanship. Kudos.


M$?s Total Worldwide Smartphone Sales to EndUsers in Q3 2011 was only 1.5%

Interesting. I wonder if this will prompt Steve Ballmer to declare Windows Phone market share a rounding error. :D

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