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[Updated] Samsung's Android Problem

[Samsung] said it has sold around 4 million Galaxy S smartphones in North America, 2.5 million in Europe, and around 2 million in South Korea in the past seven months.

via Samsung Sells 10 Million Galaxy S Android Smartphones – Digital Lifestyle – Macworld UK.

Samsung’s US Android sales are very similarly allocated to Apple’s iPhone sales: 40%. But at 20%, South Korea represents a very large portion of their sales (2 million phones sold in 7 months into a country of 48 million). This is understandable given Samsung’s distribution power in its home country. However it also implies that Samsung’s [high end] Android sales in Asia excluding South Korea are tiny. Only 1.5 million were allocated to outside Europe, US and South Korea–a market that includes the whole of Asia, Africa, Middle East and Latin America.

If we believe that Android is activated at the rate of 300k units per day, then Samsung represents around 40k of that. (10 million over seven months, linear extrapolation.) So where are those remaining 260k units/day going? Gartner calculated that in Q3 Samsung was the leading Android brand (about one third of all units). The Samsung figures make these share numbers very obsolete because 40k/300k is only 13.3%.

It’s hard to pin down the market because the share shifts are dramatic and the market’s growth is not linear. Nevertheless, intuition and guesswork leads to me believe that Android activations are to a large degree (perhaps two thirds) in Asia. This in turn implies that Samsung is not a major participant in that market.

Since neither LG (who does not have a strong Android portfolio) nor Sony Ericsson or Motorola which have low volumes, (nor obviously Nokia, RIM or Apple) are supplying the Asian Android market, the question is who is? Only HTC remains a contender but it’s not big enough to account for the difference and they too are focused on the established Western markets (except for a modest presence in China).

We are left again with circumstantial evidence that “Other” lower tier vendors are carrying the Android torch in Asia. Pdadb.net shows 277 Android models available. Brands like ZTE, Huawei, Acer, Notion Ink, Linx, TMN, FirsOne, Ziss, Kogan, Highscreen, Saygus, Haier and Forsa are selling Android devices (though not all in Asia).

Not that there’s anything wrong with that

If there is a worry it is perhaps that Samsung might find it hard to maintain the top spot in supplying Android once the unbranded vendors make it through the distribution obstacle course (as HTC did when it reached 80% of the Windows Mobile share.)

If one is to argue that Android empowers the desperate incumbents, then one has to also agree that it also empowers the more nimble entrants–inevitably leading to even more desperation.

[Updated: thanks to reader @UVStaska who noticed on glaring error in the analysis. I had failed to see the “S” in the original quote and been assuming the 10 million figure represented all Samsung Android sales. The Galaxy brand is the Android brand but the “S” model is only one product within the line-up. Samsung Android sales are likely much higher than the 1.5 million I assumed.

Back to the drawing board with the question of Samsung’s strength in Asia. One does still wonder how well they are doing relative to entrants.]