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October 17, 2012

Smartphone Wars: Apple vs. Samsung, the Numbers Don't Add Up Yet

By Peter Bernstein, Senior Editor

Who can you really believe became an interesting question in the battle between Apple and Samsung (News - Alert) for smartphone dominance with the release by online ad network company Chitika.  

Here is the bone of contention. Chitika says that according to its monitoring of ad traffic on its network, Apple Web traffic among mobile devices is big and the iPhone (News - Alert) is only making it bigger. In fact, it is a lot bigger than Samsung’s and the two combined, with 46 percent and 15 percent share respectively, dwarf everyone else in the market.

The graphic below states the case.

Like I said, this highlights the fact that the device market is devolving into a two horse race, certainly casting doubt on the vitality of HTC, Nokia and the now Google-owned Motorola (News - Alert), just to name a few “others.”

The problem is as commentators have pointed out, if Samsung claims to have sold over 50 handsets, including 10 million Galaxy IIIs, why isn’t their share of Web traffic higher? The arithmetic just does not seem to work.

There are a few possible answers to the question.

  • As big as Chitika is, they still do not have a large enough percentage of ad traffic over their network to make the findings more than anecdotal
  • Samsung has fudged their sales numbers
  • Apple (News - Alert) users click more on ads than Samsung users
  •  Samsung users do not connect their devices to the Internet and only use them to make calls and play games
  • The iPhone 5 launch caused existing iPhone users to do lots of searches and to click on adds
  • All of the above
  • None of the above

The first selection is a likely source of why there is a math problem but given the gap, and some comments on various article pointing the problem out, it seems that similar data can be obtained from other places that track this stuff. This lends a bit of credence to the point about sales fudging but that one is relatively easy to confirm, and again the number would have to be wildly wrong to validate what is going on here and it doubtful that is the case.

Truth is that we don’t know and we don’t know who or what to believe. The old market researcher in me subscribes to the saying of the late U.S. Senator from New York, Daniel Patrick Moynihan who said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” In short, I am going to hold off on having an opinion until there are more validated facts to look at from places like comScore

That said, what does seem evident no matter what numbers one looks at is that “others” certainly have their hands full in dealing with the implications of the Apple vs. Samsung global struggle. I promise to keep you posted if and when there is greater clarity around the facts. 

Edited by Jamie Epstein
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