Apple's incredible iPhone sales may be forcing competitors to stop and think about release dates. Photo: Bryan Derballa/Wired.com
A report from Taiwanese publication Digitimes says smartphone manufacturers Samsung, HTC, LG and Nokia are launching their new products in Q2 2012 instead of Q1 in order to avoid direct competition from Apple’s iPhone 4S. Digitimes sources said that sales of the iPhone 4S “will remain at peak in the first quarter of 2012 and then begin to decline,” so many handset makers will be waiting to unveil 2012 models at Mobile World Congress in late February — with launch dates after that.
At first glance, the Digitimes reports seems tenable. At this year’s CES, many products revealed at the show were announced with release dates of April or later, and “in the coming months” was a common refrain among PR reps when asked when products would hit retail.
Nonetheless, it doesn’t look like Apple’s smartphone success bears much influence on its competitors’ release dates.
“If they did that, they’d never release anything,” iSupply analyst Francis Sideco said. “I’m sure it’s a factor, a consideration, but I doubt it’d be the factor that would drive somebody’s marketing plan. That’s like letting your competitor drive your product roadmap for you.”
Apple had blockbuster sales and earnings last quarter, particularly in the iPhone department. Sales of the iPhone 4S, which was announced Oct. 5 and released into the wild shortly thereafter, were especially remarkable, helping Apple to achieve a record 37.04 million in iPhone sales.
Although many smartphone manufacturers saw lackluster sales and slow to no growth over the holiday season, Samsung still managed to come out on top. Samsung sold 300 million phones last year and experienced record profits. If any company isn’t afraid of Apple, even in the face of lengthy, global-wide court battles, it’s certainly Samsung.
Gartner analyst Ken Dulaney also thought today’s rumor sounded unlikely.
“Samsung and Nokia have both released phones during the iPhone 4S frenzy,” Dulaney said. True: Nokia launched its Lumia 710 smartphone on T-Mobile Jan. 11, and its Lumia 800 in Europe during Q4. Samsung’s flagship Android Ice Cream Sandwich phone, the Galaxy Nexus, also went on sale while 4S sales were peaking over the holiday season. Samsung is also releasing its Galaxy Note smartphone in February, during Q1.
Sideco points out that announcing phones during this quarter is basically as good as releasing them, as far as marketing impact is concerned. Nearly every handset maker unveiled at least one new smartphone at CES: HTC debuted the Titan II, while Sony unveiled the Xperia S, to name a few. We will likely be seeing many more product reveals once Mobile World Congress rolls around — but that still puts announcements in Q1, not Q2.
Apple may be a huge influencer in terms of smartphone trends, and a huge mountain of competition to overcome, but it’s very unlikely that Apple is the reason smartphone manufacturers are releasing phones later than Q1.