updated 12:45 pm EDT, Fri April 27, 2012
IHS iSuppli sees iPhone still on top for now
IHS iSuppli posted an estimate that suggested Apple may have kept its frontrunner position in smartphones in the earliest quarter of 2012. Although Samsung hasn't officially published smartphone shipments, researchers believed that it had shipped 32 million devices, putting it behind Apple's 35.1 million iPhones. If true, the gap would be wider than in the fall, when Samsung's reported 35 million to 36 million was close to Apple's 37 million.
Analyst estimates had given Samsung as many as 44 million smartphones, which would have given it an unambiguous lead. The Korean company has at times been unclear about how many phones it has has sold to real customers versus simply shipped into stores.
The study's more concrete information also showed Nokia's fragility. At 12 million smartphones shipped, it was just a million units above RIM's BlackBerry line and risked slipping to fourth place, although both companies have been on the decline for years. LG just edged into the top five, although it too would have seen a drop from five million smartphones in the fall to four million this past winter.
In overall cellphone sales, the breakdown helped reveal potentially better performance for Apple in all cellphones. It was still a distant third to Samsung (92 million) and Nokia (83 million), but it had lost the least of its sales in the post-holiday cooling period. Samsung would have lost 13 percent of its sales in the estimate, where Nokia, LG, and RIM have all lost more than 20 percent.
Whether or not Apple can keep the pace for the spring is uncertain. The next Samsung flagship, increasingly likely to be called the Galaxy S III, could accelerate Samsung's sales. With Apple only just talking about iOS 6 in June, it's unlikely to have a shipping iPhone refresh until the summer or fall.