Photo: Dylan Love
Two big Android handset makers had terrible quarters.HTC announced a 26% drop in profit from the previous year — its first such drop in two years — and Motorola warned that it would have only modest profits on smaller-than-expected revenue.
But more important, both companies saw mobile phone unit sales drop from the previous quarter.
HTC sold only 10 million units in the last three months of the year, down from 13.2 million in Q3, reports Bloomberg. And Motorola sold only 10.5 million, down from 11.6 million in the previous quarter (although smartphone sales were up slightly).
That’s exactly the opposite of what happens with most successful consumer products, where the holiday quarter is usually the biggest of the year.
Samsung, perhaps not wanting to be tarred with the same brush, pre-announced a fantastic quarter: it will earn $4.5 billion in operating profit, which is about 10% than analysts expected (according to Reuters), and 22% higher than Q3.
A lot of reports credited the strength to Samsung’s smartphone business. That’s reasonable — Samsung passed Apple last quarter as the number-one smartphone maker in the world according to one estimate, and analysts are expecting big growth.
But Samsung itself said nothing about smartphone sales in its note. Every report citing Samsung smartphone sales in Q4 are estimates from analysts. Guesses, if you will.
But let’s assume that the Android market has one big winner — Samsung — and a lot of smaller players at the margin.
Either way, the business of being an Android reseller is starting to look a lot like the traditional PC business. Some hardware makers do great, others don’t, and the players change from year to year.
But the big winner is always the platform provider.