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The Galaxy S4 has become the only Android phone that matters

Updated Dec 19th, 2018 8:44PM EST
Samsung Galaxy S4 Sales Analysis

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While it’s not surprising that the iPhone 5s has dominated smartphone sales at major American carriers since its release this fall, it is somewhat surprising to see that the iPhone 5c has maintained a tight grip on the No. 3 spot at all major American carriers for the past three months as well. What this means is that, other than Samsung’s Galaxy S4, no other smartphone has been able to match sales of a device that many reports have indicated has been a disappointment.

Let’s recall that in the months between the time Samsung released the Galaxy S4 and the time Apple released its new iPhones, several other vendors released flagship smartphones aimed at taking on the mobile industry’s twin titans. But not one of them — not the HTC One, the Nokia Lumia 1020, the Moto X or the LG G2 — has been able to make anything close to a dent in the American smartphone market. 9to5Google shows us this chart from Canaccord Genuity featuring smartphone sales rankings across major carriers since August.

What’s particularly striking is that in August this year, no single smartphone other than the Galaxy S4 could top sales of the iPhone 5, which at that point was almost nearly a year old.

What’s more, it looks like the smartphones that came in third place behind the iPhone 5 and Galaxy S4 were almost there by default: The Lumia 1020 and Motorola Droid MAXX were exclusives for AT&T and Verizon, respectively, which means they had special incentives to sell them to subscribers. The No.3 phone at Sprint was the HTC One while the No. 3 phone at T-Mobile was Sony’s Xperia Z — in other words, there were four different carriers with four different No. 3 phones. And once the iPhone 5s and 5c launched, no phone other than the Galaxy S4 had any hope of cracking the top 3 at any major carrier.

So what does this mean for the mobile market? For the time being, it shows the futility of any company other than Apple or Samsung putting a lot of money into designing and marketing a flagship smartphone. The HTC One, the Lumia 1020 and the Nexus 5 all received rave reviews but none of them has managed to make any cracks in the Apple-Samsung duopoly. The same goes for the Moto X, the device that Google reportedly supported with a very expensive marketing campaign that has essentially gotten the device nowhere in terms of sales.

As uncomfortable as it must be for Google to admit, it looks as though Samsung is the only manufacturer that can make an Android device whose sales come even close to matching the iPhone’s.

Brad Reed
Brad Reed Staff Writer

Brad Reed has written about technology for over eight years at and Network World. Prior to that, he wrote freelance stories for political publications such as AlterNet and the American Prospect. He has a Master's Degree in Business and Economics Journalism from Boston University.