Apple 2.0

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Samsung edged out Apple in U.S. phone sales last quarter - update

October 17, 2013: 10:41 AM ET

Not for the first time, and probably not the last, according to CIRP.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

FORTUNE -- Samsung overtook the iPhone on Apple's (AAPL) home turf in the quarter that ended Sept. 30, according to a Consumer Intelligence Research Partners' report obtained by Fortune Thursday.

[As for Verizon's (VZ) report that 51% of the smartphones it activated in the same quarter were iPhones, see UPDATE below.]

In CIRP's survey, Samsung accounted for 38% of U.S. mobile phone sales in Q3 2013 compared with 34% for Apple.

"Samsung appears to have taken a bit of share from Apple in the quarter," said CIRP co-founder Josh Lowitz. "We attribute that to customers postponing purchase of Apple products until the anticipated iPhone 5S and 5C launch late in the quarter."

Samsung took the quarter even if you subtract out the sales of their feature phones, according to CIRP.

The chart below shows how the launch of the iPhone 5 last year catapulted Apple back into the No. 1 spot. The launch of the new iPhones is expected have the same effect this quarter.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

METHODOLOGY: CIRP bases its findings on its survey of 500 customers that activated a mobile phone in the U.S. in June-September 2013.

UPDATE: I see from the comments that I'm not the only one having trouble reconciling Verizon's report this morning that of the 7.6 million smartphone it activated during the September quarter, 3.9 million (51%) were iPhones. I asked a CIRP spokesperson if he could explain the discrepancy. His reply:

Yeah, the difference between our 34% and the 51% for Verizon does seem big. 

A couple of thoughts:

  • our estimate includes all carriers, including S, TMUS, and others. These together represent perhaps a third of the total US market, but in general Apple doesn't do nearly as well at those carriers relative to its share at T and VZ.
  • the Verizon figure seems to pertain only to smartphone activations, while the figures we show are for all phones.  Of course, Apple sells only smartphones, while Samsung also sells feature phones. Now, the number of feature phones continues to decline, so excluding them will not change the figures dramatically, but they are worth a couple of percentage points.

I have a couple thoughts:

  • If CIRP's survey was conducted before Sept. 13, it wouldn't have captured sales of the iPhone 5S and 5C. Those were included in Verizon's numbers.
  • In terms of simple methodological credibility, Verizon's 7.6 million trumps CIRP's 500.
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Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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