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iPhone 3G does not capture 17 percent of the US market for cell phones

It’s interesting to me how people contort Apple market share figures to make them look better than they really are. If Apple’s market share of, say, the PC industry isn’t high enough, we’ll just use the US figures without mentioning that’s what happening. Still not high enough? We’ll use a nebulous and pretty-much-made-up figure about, say, notebook sales. Still not good enough: OK, US notebook sales to consumers, only in retail stores. Eventually, Apple will appear to dominate the PC industry. It’s fun.

And it’s happening with the iPhone now as well. Today, for example, we learn that the iPhone 3G is 17% of US smart phone market. That’s one in six out of every smart phone sold in the US, people. One in six!

Except, of course, that it isn’t. Here’s how it was reported:

The iPhone outsold the BlackBerry Curve, BlackBerry Pearl and Palm Centro in the June through August window and used the spike generated by the launch to give all iPhones about 17 percent of the US smart phone business from January through August, or more than one in six smart phones sold in the country.

The figures are targeted at typical sales, however, and don't include corporate sales that often favor BlackBerries and Windows Mobile devices in the US

Woah, woah. “Typical sales”? Doesn’t include corporate sales that “often favor” other devices? LOL.

So this is just like Mac market share, in other words. It’s a subset of a subset of a market, picked to make the picture look even rosier than it really is. It’s US sales of smart phones to consumers over the counter at retail locations only, not “US sales of smart phones.” Most smart phones are sold to business users, not consumers, incidentally. And that means that “typical” smart phone sales are corporate sales, not consumer sales. This whole thing is a crock.

Now before any of you Apple boys get your panties all twisted up in a bunch, let me remind you that I use, enjoy, and recommend the iPhone. It’s a great device, and arguably the nicest smart phone available for consumers today. No doubt about it. But this isn’t about my personal preferences, or some bizarre need by the press to continually inflate Apple’s very real successes. The iPhone’s doing great. And it’s opening up a consumer market for smart phones. That’s the real story here.

But this story has now been misreported and will be widely broadcast as truth. That 17 percent figure is representative of only a very small portion of the overall smart phone market. It’s just not true.


UPDATE: I noted above that Apple is “opening up a consumer market for smart phones.” Turns out that Apple’s not even the number one seller of consumer-oriented smart phones sold via retail in the US. RIM is. And this is according to NPD, the same folks that generated the report that caused the story linked above. So a more accurate statement might be that “Apple is contributing to the opening up of a consumer market for smart phones.”

Apparently, even I give Apple more credit than they deserve. See how easy it is?

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