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Samsung... no, Apple... no, Samsung tops Q1 smartphone sales chart

Bean counters come up with different totals

Samsung Wave 3

Here's a classic case of why you shouldn't rely entirely on market watchers: two of them yesterday claimed different phone makers top the world smartphone charts.

In the blue corner, we have Strategy Analytics, lifting Samsung's arm up high and emailing us to say the South Korean giant's 44.5m estimated smartphone shipments during Q1.

Apple, by contrast, shipped 35.06m iPhones, putting it in second place.

On the other side of the ring, however, IHS iSuppli is slapping Apple on the back, saying the iPhone maker shipped more smartphones than Samsung: 35.06m and 32m, respectively.

Apple's figures are clear cut: the number is the one the company filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission. Market watchers take this as accurate because, were Apple fibbing, it would be up on a securities fraud charge PDQ.

The trouble is, Samsung hasn't provided an equivalently verifiable number yet. Both companies derived their numbers from hints provided by Samsung during an earnings conference call yesterday.

iSuppli told Barrons' blogger Tiernan Ray that it calculated the figure from Samsung's statement that phone sales were down ten per cent quarter on quarter, but that smartphones' share of overall sales was the same or slightly higher.

SA says there were a greater proportion of smartphones in the sales mix than iSuppli accounts for, hence its larger number.

Who is correct? Impossible to say, though other research firms and brokers have chipped in to say Samsung top dog. The balance of probabilities is, then, that Apple was number two during Q1 2012. Both companies together account for 55 per cent of the world smartphone market, SA said.

Both concur, however, that Nokia came third, followed by RIM. ®

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