The third quarter of any calendar year is generally the quiet one in smartphone sales terms. iPhone shipments are affected by the lag in sales in early part of the quarter and then the massive rush towards the end, which defines the arrival of a new iPhone.
Normally that means that Samsung has an easier time of it, with its latest Galaxy phones well established and a new Note device arriving mid-quarter.
So when reports for sales in the quarter just ended come in, numbers are going to be affected by a number of external factors.
For starters, the Note 7. We know that 2.5 million of them shipped and upwards of one million have been replaced. In some countries users were given other Samsung handsets to tide them over until their replacement arrived. Even without the impact of the cessation of sales (which happened after the quarter had ended) how is anyone supposed to reflect all these shipments as sales? Was 2.5 million, 3.5 million or 5 million?
Then there’s the iPhone 7, a sedate upgrade with limited kerbside appeal – in a normal year. With Samsung’s problems surfacing as the iPhone 7 went on sale how many users swerved from Samsung to Apple out of caution? How many Note 7 users returned their risky purchases and took sanctuary in an iPhone. Are sales up or are they down?
Then there’s Huawei, who launched new phones under the Honor brand in the US and as second-placed vendor in the smartphone market should have been ideally placed to pick up sales from disappointed Note 7 users, as well as those who avoided Samsung out of a sense of caution.
Right now I’d suggest that any numbers and market shares reported for Q3 are going to be skewed and the fall out from the Note 7 disaster won’t be accurately reflected until after the Christmas numbers are in.