Apple Bagged 57% Of $12.5B In Smartphone Profits In Q1; Android 43% – Samsung 95% Share Of That, “More Than Google”

Apple continues to lead both as the single-most profitable smartphone maker, and by default the most profitable platform, taking 57% of $12.5 billion in smartphone operating profits in Q1, according to figures out from Strategy Analytics today. Android took 43%, equating to $5.3 billion, Neil Mawston, chief analyst with the firm, tells TechCrunch.

The figures come as analyst houses are releasing various estimates for how smartphones have been selling in Q1. Strategy Analytics have published some numbers that tell the story in a different way.

Yes, Android is dominating smartphone sales (Gartner’s figures yesterday noted that Google’s platform took nearly 75% of all sales in the three month period). Yes, Samsung continues to widen its lead against Apple — now at 31% of all smartphone sales. But it still has a ways to go before it tops Apple, which has built its brand as the premium offering. (One possible reason why it has resisted up to now launching a low-cost, more cheaply made handset.)

Within the Android portion of smartphone profits, Samsung is taking ever the bigger lion’s share. Its $5.1 billion in operating profit works out to 95% of all Android revenues, and 40.8% of all smartphone operating profits overall. Bad news for other vendors/platforms like Nokia and BlackBerry: their collective profits totalled just $300 million for the quarter, working out to a 2.2% share of profits.

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This also shows that Samsung has come quite some way in working out its profitability engine in the last year as it has continued to grow. This time a year ago, it was generating only about half the revenues of Apple in mobile devices (and that was counting Samsung’s smartphones as well as its feature phone handsets), and accordingly a thinner proportion of profits.

These numbers largely tally with some released earlier this month by Canaccord Genuity (via AllThingsD). The difference lies at the lower end, where Canaccord Genuity says that vendors beyond the top two effectively took nothing.

With these numbers coming out just as Google I/O kicks off, Strategy Analytics again throws light on just how disproportionate Samsung’s weight is in the Android ecosystem, and how its sales dominance works out to larger economies of scale and profit: its $5.1 billion in operating profits works out to 95% of all profits made on Android, with LG the only other vendor to break out from “others,” with a meagre 2.5% of profit share on $100 million in operating profits.

“An efficient supply chain, sleek products and crisp marketing have been among the main drivers of Samsung’s impressive profitability,” Woody Oh, Strategy Analytics’ senior analyst writes. In contrast, “LG delivered a small profit during the quarter, but it currently lacks the volume scale needed to match Samsung’s outsized profits.”

Just think of what that means for the even smaller Android OEMs.

strategy analytics smartphone profits 2

Mawston believes that Samsung is actually generating even more revenue than Google itself from Android, counting things like mobile advertising and apps revenue.

“We believe Samsung generates more revenue and profit from the Android platform than Google does,” he writes. As Google’s Android head Sundar Pichai today reported during that I/O keynote that there have been some 900 million Android activations worldwide, this begs the question of who is in the driver’s seat on the platform — and by association smartphones worldwide.

“Samsung has strong market power and it may use this position to influence the future direction of the Android ecosystem,” Mawston writes. “For example, Samsung could request first or exclusive updates of new software from Android before rival hardware vendors.” If those kinds of requests are likely to get made, it will get harder and harder for Google to resist and continue maintaining the level playing field it’s tried to create for its mobile platform.

Tablets are not included in any of the above calculations, Strategy Analytics says.