Is Apple No. 1, No. 2 or No. 3?


Apple Inc.'s (NASDAQ: AAPL) business is either falling apart or it is not. It is losing market share to Samsung or it is not. Its new products are either innovative or they are not. Maybe a new iPhone 5S will reverse its fortunes, or perhaps a new iPad.

Well-regarded research firm Strategy Analytics released data that showed:

Mobile phone shipments grew +4% YoY to reach 52 million units in the United States in Q4 2012 (smartphones + feature phones combined).

Apple overtook Samsung to become, for the first time, the number one mobile phone vendor in the United States in the fourth quarter of 2012. Apple captured a record 34% share of the total U.S. mobile phone market in that period.

Maybe it is Samsung that is taking a beating.

At roughly the same time Strategy Analytics released its findings, rival research company IDC reported data on the global tablet market, the second important leg on the consumer electronics sales of both Apple and Samsung. According to IDC:

Worldwide tablet sales surged to 52.5 million units in the period, IDC said in a statement yesterday. Samsung's market share jumped to 15 percent from 7.3 percent a year earlier, while Apple's dropped to 44 percent from 52 percent.

The IDC market share data is bad for Apple, but because of the growth in the overall market, the news might be good.

Between a data hungry press and analysts who need to release information to remain relevant, the rumors about Apple, its actual sales and future prospects are enough to keep minds spinning. The flood is made even more complex when Google Inc.'s (NASDAQ: GOOG) Android-based PCs and tablets are taken into account, or at least beyond sales of Samsung Android-powered products. And Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) has pushed products powered by Windows mobile so hard that the company must be exhausted.

Apple has become engulfed by the fog of war, or at the very least, the fog of information.

Filed under: 24/7 Wall St. Wire, Consumer Electronics, Research Tagged: AAPL, featured, GOOG, MSFT