Russian wireless carrier MTS has let loose a treasure trove of information about the state of the local handset market in the first quarter of 2012. The whole report is a smorgasbord of nerd infotainment, but three points pop out immediately. First, we knew that Samsung was taking out the trash in the Russian market. But how! By the first quarter this year, Samsung’s smartphone revenue market share vaulted from 14.8% to 32.3% in just one year. And this happened before the Galaxy S III launch. At the same time, HTC’s share crawled from 10.1% to 11.7% and Sony (Ericsson) was left in the dust with 7.9%.
Moving on from Samsung, Apple’s smartphone revenue share declined from 15.6% to 14.9% in a year. This mirrors the Brazilian pattern — Samsung is flooding the smartphone markets of certain major emerging economies with a wide spectrum of devices, ranging from dirt cheap to almost as expensive as the latest iPhone. The broad price spectrum is not only punishing Android rivals like HTC, it is also effectively capping Apple’s market share gains. For now. Is Apple going to let Samsung to get away with this or are we on the eve of a major Apple low-end offensive in emerging markets? Things could get mighty interesting over the next 12 months. Russia and Brazil are two key battlegrounds here — one is the gateway to Eastern Europe, the other to Latin America.
Finally, average handset pricing actually increased in Russia from 4,550 rubles to 4,650 rubles between the first quarters of 2011 and 2012. This is quite an improvement and more than reverses the ASP decline in Russia between the same quarters in 2010 and 2011. It is quite interesting, because the handset ASP had declined year-over-year in Russia during the previous four quarters. One major factor is no doubt the growth in the smartphone market, now hitting 26.7% of total mobile handset market.