The big Eastern European mobile operator MTS recently released interesting numbers about the Russian handset market. They showed Samsung’s share of Russian smartphone market revenue exploding between the first quarters of 2011 and 2012, while Apple’s share actually declined a bit. Now Kantar has come out with its latest survey tracking the smartphone market in a variety of countries, and it contains some intriguing data points.
The sampling period spans 12 weeks and ends on June 10th, so it captured some of the Samsung Galaxy S III surge as well as the strong reception to cheaper new Samsung Android phones such as the Ace 2.
What’s fascinating about the new Kantar data is that is seems to affirm what the European phone industry has been buzzing about this year: Apple’s grasp of the market in Germany and France seems a lot more tenuous than its grip on the United Kingdom.
Kantar indicates that Apple’s share in Germany declined by 1.4 percentage points year-over-year, and in France by 3.2 points, while in the U.K., Apple gained 5.4 points and grabbed 25% of the smartphone market. Interestingly, Apple’s share slipped below 15% in France, under pressure from Samsung’s early summer performance. The iOS decline in Australia also looks steep, which fits the continent’s reputation as a Samsung stronghold with wombats.
What seems to have happened during this spring is that within the core Anglo-Saxon Apple markets of United States and United Kingdom, iPhone’s momentum continued building even as new Samsung devices debuted. But in markets such as Russia, Australia, France and Germany, Apple’s share gains have stalled — even as the Symbian collapse reached a thundering climax.
Symbian lost colossal 19 percentage points in Germany and 22 points in Italy over the year ending in mid-June 2012. Yet iOS lost share in these countries as well; Android absorbed all of Symbian market share losses and then some. The lack of low-end devices is a particularly thorny problem for Apple in highly cost-conscious places like Spain, Brazil and Russia.
Could the ongoing Samsung surge push Apple into more aggressive pricing of aging iPhones when the next iteration arrives? Or does Apple choose to cede ground and bet that the success of its app ecosystem and iPads will neutralize the ongoing Samsung smartphone volume rampage? The pricing decisions Apple makes this autumn may be pivotal in terms of how 2013 shapes up in the smartphone market outside the U.S.-U.K. axis.