The battle of the smartphones: iPhone 4S > everyone else

Apple reports bumper iPhone 4S sales, HTC lucks out and RIM atones for network transgressions.

by Rebecca Burn-Callander
Last Updated: 13 Jan 2012

Following the tragic loss of Steve Jobs earlier this month, Apple’s share price slipped 1.5% on the New York stock exchange, prompting analysts to question the tech giant’s future. They must be burning their abaci now. The firm is back on storming form.

Despite the initial lukewarm reaction to the iPhone 4S (the howls of rage from Apple fanboys and girls everywhere when the dream of an iPhone 5 was crushed at the October 4th unveiling was deafening), the gadget is selling like hot cakes. Maybe it’s the voice-to-text feature? Maybe it’s the new, improved eight megapixel camera? Or one of the 200 other new features? Either way, the gadgeterati are going bananas for Apple.

In the past three days alone, Apple has sold more than four million iPhone 4S smartphones. That’s over 925 a minute. It is now on track to set the record for the world's fastest selling consumer electronics gadget.

Which gizmo currently holds the record? Yup. You guessed it. The iPad 2. Apple sold a staggering 156,000 iPads per day during the first 80 days after launch.

In other news, HTC, still (just about) the second-largest maker of smartphones, has lost a ruling in its long-standing patent case against Apple. HTC claimed that Apple’s iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad violated four patents and sought to block sales of the devices in the US. But all of Apple’s birthdays came at once yesterday, when US International Trade Commission judge Charles Bullock ruled against HTC.

And the plot thickens. Apple has a number of patent cases pending against HTC, Samsung and Motorola. In a tale of ‘tit for tat’, Apple has accused these Android device-makers of stealing its technology. Samsung has already lost rulings in Australia and Europe, limiting the sale of a number of products. This latest coup against HTC spells yet more trouble for the Apple rivals. It is the first case of six patent cases to be heard this year.

In a neighbouring kingdom in smartphone land, RIM is fighting a battle of its own. The BlackBerry maker has endured a torrent of abuse after several network outages over the past week. In an attempt to mollify users, RIM has just unveiled a free app offer worth around £63 to subscribers and one month of free technical support for enterprise customers. Disgruntled users will be able to download a number of apps (including SIMS 3, Bejeweled, Bubble Bash 2 and Shazam Encore) from the BlackBerry App World from this Wednesday until December 31.

It may be a case of too little too late, however. RIM’s sales dropped 10% in the second quarter of this year and show no signs of recovering as the enterprise market becomes increasingly enamoured with the iPhone. Compared to both Rim and Apple, however, the Android device is the hungry caterpillar in the smartphone market, gobbling market share and growing from 10.7 million handset sales to 46.8 million with growth at 75% in the last quarter.

It’s a bad time to be losing your foothold in the scramble for smartphone dominance. The sector is a veritable goldmine, with latest data from MarketsandMarkets forecasting the total global value of the mobile handset market at US$341.4bn by 2015. One thing’s for sure, the humble blower’s come a long way since the old cup and string.

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