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“Take the number that network operators sold and subtract the number that was shipped and you have the number that is sitting on the shelf,” Disabato said. “People say, Android has more market share than iOS and I say, ‘So what?’”
Disabato wants to see like items compared to like items. In other words, he wants to know how many Android smartphones and how many iOS smartphones are actually in the consumers’ hands -- not just on store shelves.
“Samsung likes to say how many smartphones it shipped but they were not shipped to people that are using them. They were shipped to the wireless carriers,” Disabato said. “How many Samsung devices did the major network operators sell? That’s what you want to know.”
Beyond Samsung and Apple
"Beyond Samsung and Apple at the top of the rankings is a tight race of vendors trying to break out from the pack," said Ramon Llamas, Research Manager with IDC's Mobile Phone team. "In the third quarter of 2013, Chinese vendors Huawei and Lenovo moved past LG, and not far behind are two more Chinese companies, Coolpad and ZTE. Any of these vendors could change position again next quarter. But in addition to having close shipment volumes, they all have one key ingredient in common: Android. This has been a huge factor in their success, but it also speaks to the challenges of differentiation on the world's most popular platform."
Case in point: Huawei returned to the list of top five vendors after a one-quarter hiatus, narrowly beating out Lenovo and LG in IDC’s report. Less than a million units separate Huawei from the next two vendors, underscoring how tightly contested the market has become following Samsung and Apple.
Lenovo posted the largest year-over-year increase among the leading vendors, enough to push past LG to claim the number four position worldwide. LG slipped to fifth place, but nevertheless posted strong double-digit year-over-year smartphone growth of 72.2 percent, IDC said.
"Looking ahead, we anticipate strong momentum going into the fourth quarter, and another record quarter and year in the worldwide smartphone market," said Llamas. "With already strong growth in the third quarter and multiple vendors launching flagship models, the market will be poised to reach one billion units for the year. It's a significant milestone considering the market shipped just half a billion units in 2011. Moving forward, what remains to be seen is how the various companies and platforms will stay differentiated and relevant in the increasingly competitive market."