So Apple has just reported. We heard that iPhone sales were 8.74M units vs 8.7M in the Christmas period. Most analysts had expected around 7.1 - 7.4 M unit sales of iPhones which would have been in line with iPhone previous after-Christmas sales pattern from 2008 and 2009. But this is the best-ever after-Christmas iPhone quarter, where sales did not decline at all from what usually is the best quarter of the year.
First, some humble pie - this totally surprised me, and I now feel that my blog 'iPhone annual market share has peaked' may have been premature. Certainly this data does not support my hypothesis. So we will monitor the iPhone, but its sales were far stronger than most expected.
Now, what does that tell us about iPhone market share. It means iPhone market share is in the 16%-18% range (depending on how big is the final smartphone sales numbers for the quarter for the rest of the industry, which we will know very closely after Nokia has reported in a few days, as Nokia counts for about 40% of global smartphone sales). But it seems clear that iPhone market share is more-or-less flat, may have picked up a percentage point in fact, very strong performance.
Still, this is yet another sign that the current quarter smartphone sales are super-hot. Already we've heard that HTC, Google and RIM have reported stronger smartphone sales this quarter than last, and Samsung is so bullish of their smartphone performance, they upped their annual sales target from 18M to 24M (a 33% growth rate annually, which would suggest quarterly growth rate of about 8%). But there are other players who have reported declines - Palm, and expected to report declines - Microsoft; and still others who have not reported huge smartphone growth who could have, such as SonyEricsson last week and expected also to be similar for Motorola.
I will come back to the overall 'bloodbath' smartphone quarter as we get these news coming in and do a full round-up of the quarterly situation at the end of April. But Apple, very VERY strong performance, excellent bounce-back from what was a disappointing iPhone quarter for Christmas. Remember the new iPhone is coming in June and that will again boost Apple's overall sales and its market share. So Apple's annual sales pattern is different from all major smartphone maker rivals, with only one new model released in June. That has previously meant good Autumn sales of iPhones and bad Spring sales of iPhones. Now Apple has apparently busted that patttern.
UPDATE - I have now done some analysis and concluded that the surprise bonus 1M unit sales of iPhones was generated in China, and its mostly due to the biggest gift-giving season of China which is the Lunar New Year which happened in February 2010. Full explanation here Apple to thank Year of Tiger for iPhone sales
UPDATE 2 - We now know (April 22, 2010) the actual smartphone market size globally for Q1. It was 52.6 million actual smartphone handsets. So now we can calculate the market share - and would you know it, even after yet another stellar quarter, Apple is stuck in a rut, can't break its 17% market share. Its stuck at that level for the third quarter in a row. It really does seem like Apple has peaked. Remember you heard it here first.