Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) Scariest Competitor Rises 8% Amid iPhone Decline
iPhone demand is still very high, but only one company is experiencing a massive increase.
Once a harmless cellular phone manufacturer, now a dangerous iPhone competitor with the hottest Android devices, Samsung made significant progress in December. In addition to manufacturing the best-selling phone in England (or so a PC Advisor report claims), a new ChangeWave Research survey shows that more American consumers are looking toward Samsung smartphones.
The survey – which was conducted in December and included 4,000 North American consumers – asked, “Who is the manufacturer of the smartphone you plan on buying?” Not surprisingly, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) leads the pack of manufacturers, which includes Motorola (NYSE:MMI), Research in Motion (NASDAQ: RIMM), and HTC.
With more than 50% of consumers choosing an iPhone (specific models weren’t mentioned, but it’s safe to assume that most buyers are planning to get the iPhone 4S), Apple is still the easy champion. There is really no comparison. Research in Motion couldn’t even muster 3% of the market – since September, consumer interest has dropped to 2%! If that weren’t so sad, it’d be hilarious.
HTC’s decline is even worse, going from 6% to just 3%. While consumers may have been excited by its iPhone clones in the past, the company is clearly losing its edge in the Android market.
Then we have Motorola, which actually rose from 5% to 7%. I’m not even sure how this was possible, but it seems as if the redesigned RAZR may have sparked new interest in the struggling manufacturer.
From September to December, Apple dropped from 65% to 54%. Regard;ess, the iPhone maker still maintains a massive lead in the smartphone market (in terms of prospective consumer desire, at least). Better still, the ChangeWave results found that Apple has “never dominated smart phone planned buying to this extent more than two months after a major new release.”
The real winner of this survey, however, is Samsung, which saw an eight-point increase in consumer interest from September to December, jumping from 5% to 13%. While Apple may still be the dominant player in America, Samsung’s rise in consumer interest presents a couple of problems for Apple.
First, it means that Samsung is effectively rising as the number-one manufacturer of iPhone alternatives. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as there will always be iPhone alternatives that manage to devour any portion of the market that Apple can’t reach. However, it would be best for Apple if those competitors were all on the same weakness level. When one begins to jump ahead, that’s when Apple could be in trouble.
Second, Samsung rose in the months after the iPhone 4S was released. This could simply be due to the fact that in September consumers were anticipating the release of the iPhone 5. Once the iPhone 4S was unveiled instead, some consumers may have decided to wait for the iPhone 5, and therefore said that they were more likely to buy another manufacturer’s product within the next 90 days. This would be great news for Apple, since it would mean that these consumers will likely abandon its competitors and buy an iPhone 5 later this year.
That is the best-case scenario for Apple. The worst-case scenario would be that consumers were disappointed with the iPhone 4S and decided to look elsewhere.
But if that’s the case, how was Apple able to maintain its dominance – and such a massive lead – two months after its latest phone was released? Doesn’t that mean that Apple is actually improving its popularity?
No – it just means that Android’s carrier advantage is finally over. Up until last year, consumers couldn’t buy an iPhone without signing up for AT&T (NYSE:T). That changed the moment the iPhone 4S was released. Though the older iPhone 4 had come to Verizon (NYSE:VZ) earlier in the year, it wasn’t until the 4S arrived that consumers could get a brand-new iPhone on all three of the major carriers, including Sprint (NYSE:S). Thus, the number of consumers who can now buy an iPhone is much greater than the number who could obtain one before, which inevitably helped the company maintain its powerful lead.
What’s scary is how fast Samsung is growing despite Apple’s lead. Today, Samsung will be a laughing point to iPhone loyalists. They’ll snicker and sneer at the idea that anyone – least of all the maker of the Galaxy S II – could compete with Apple.
But with every month of improving sales, Samsung inches closer and closer to threatening Apple’s dominance.