Smartphones are becoming a global phenomenon. The iPhone 5 is available in 100 different countries on 240 different carriers. Samsung plans to support 155 countries and 327 carriers with the Galaxy S4. Six years after the original iPhone launched in just one country on one carrier, expanding to cover the earth is seen as a competitive advantage. But, despite this rapid shift, approaching global expansion with a by-the-numbers mindset might not be as important as previously thought.
BlackBerry announced this morning that it sold more than 1 million BlackBerry 10 devices (by which it likely means the keyboard-less BlackBerry Z10) since the product’s announcement in January. The Z10 has been available for just 56 days, debuting first in the UK and then in Canada and finally last week in the US. As far as land-grabs go, BlackBerry has barely inched towards the global smartphone race.
Samsung takes a different, much wider-reaching approach. The company released its Samsung Galaxy S III in 28 countries across Europe and the Middle East shortly after the product was announced — almost 10 times as many countries as BlackBerry and the Z10. Yet the Galaxy S III didn’t cross the 1 million-devices-sold threshold until 50 days after its launch, beating BlackBerry’s time by just six days. If the number of carriers and countries supported at launch really makes a difference, shouldn’t Samsung have beaten BlackBerry much more handily?
Somewhere between the two lies Apple, which launched the iPhone 5 in just nine countries. More than 5 million devices were sold in just three days, meaning that Apple sold more of its flagship device in 36 hours than BlackBerry and Samsung combined sold in an entire quarter.
Now, these are simply the sales each company amassed after a device’s launch. Samsung sells more devices than Apple many times over, and both dwarf BlackBerry in the smartphone market. But opening impressions are important: They dictate how the press writes about a device, how analysts and investors view a company’s efforts, and the company’s bottom line.
A good launch isn’t determined by the sheer number of countries playing host to the new device. If that were the case, Samsung’s Galaxy S III launch would have outsold both the iPhone 5 and the BlackBerry Z10. Rather, a good launch depends on which countries a company decides to support. A lump of European and Middle Eastern countries barely registers against the US and China, for example. (Apple sold 2 million iPhone 5s three days after launching in China.)
So while Samsung’s goals for the Galaxy S4 are even more impressive than those of the Galaxy S III, both the iPhone 5’s and the BlackBerry Z10’s launch show just how little the land-grab matters (again, in the beginning). With product launches, as with real estate, a simple principle makes all the difference:
Location, location, location.
[Image courtesy Official BlackBerry Images]