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Samsung's coyness leaves smartphone crown in dispute

South Korea's Samsung Electronics Co. may have sold 32 million, 37.5 million or 44.5 million, depending which analyst you believe. The company itself refuses to say.
By PETER SVENSSON Published: April 28, 2012
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Smartphones are the hottest gadgets in the world. But who's the biggest smartphone maker? We don't really know.

Samsung, Apple's chief competitor, gives only vague indications of how many it makes, which means industry watchers come up with widely diverging estimates.

Apple Inc. reports its iPhone sales down to the thousands. In the January to March period, it shipped 35,0654,000. South Korea's Samsung Electronics Co. may have sold 32 million, 37.5 million or 44.5 million, depending which analyst you believe. The company itself refuses to say.

Bragging rights

What's at stake are bragging rights. More accurate sales figures from Samsung also would be useful to competitors and to partners like wireless carriers and retailers.

When it reported first-quarter results Friday morning, Samsung said only that overall phone shipments (including “dumb” phones) were down more than 10 percent from the fourth quarter, and that smartphone sales were about the same percentage of the company's overall sales as they have been before.

The problem is Samsung hasn't reported hard sales figures in a long time, so analysts are applying vague hints to their own estimates, which in turn are based on vague hints from previous quarters.

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