August 2012
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Day August 13, 2012

How many smartphones did Samsung ship in Q2?

50.2 million.

That’s the estimate from IDC. So why bother asking?

Because that is an estimate. Of the 104 million Android phones shipped in the quarter (itself an estimate from another, possibly different methodology), I could only account for 7 million actually reported. That figure comes from a close reading of an investor presentation from Sony. HTC does not report their shipment numbers. It stopped some time late last year. Neither does Motorola now that it’s a part of Google. Huawei is silent except for setting targets and ZTE published a press release citing IDC’s estimate of its own shipments.

But most glaring of all is the absence of any mention by Samsung of its performance. The company stopped reporting any data on either overall phone shipments or of smartphones within that total since Q3 2011. We may have been able to estimate Samsung if we had more competitor actuals, allowing us to back into a figure. But we don’t.[1]

Which leaves us with IDC’s estimate[2]. But the problem is that since the industry is growing so quickly it is very sensitive to assumptions. Consider how difficult it is for consensus estimates for Apple’s iPhone shipments to come near the actuals–and that’s for one quarter, and knowing all the previous quarters with precision. The absence of visibility into the assumptions made by market analysts (or their methods) should lower confidence in the results.

Consider that IDC specifies 50.2 million Samsung smartphones, implying an accuracy down to 100,000 units. Is this accuracy believable?

There is reason for doubt.

I start with the following graph:

It shows the estimates for Samsung global shipments (latter four quarters are estimates without the benefit of company reports.) I separated the component of shipments that Samsung reported as part of its submission to the Samsung v. Apple trial in California. Note that this (orange) segment consists of most US smartphone shipments. It’s not all US Samsung shipments. It notably excludes the Note, the latest Nexus and the Galaxy SIII.