“By revenue, Apple is the largest mobile devices company in the world now. It’s amazing. Apple is larger than Sony’s mobile devices business… bigger than Samsung’s mobile devices business… and by revenue, it’s even bigger than Nokia’s mobile devices business. Apple is the number one mobile devices company in the world.”

That was the opening (US$50 billion) message from the Californian vendor’s enigmatic chief executive, Steve Jobs, at this week’s high-profile unveiling of its tablet computer, iPad.

Now, the iPhone has certainly transformed the mobile device market (Apple “reinvented the phone,” according to Jobs) and single-handedly established a new business model in the shape of application stores, but claiming the number one spot is surely pushing marketing hype into overdrive. After all, the top five mobile device vendors are generally agreed to be (in descending order) Nokia, Samsung, LG, Sony Ericsson and Motorola. In the smartphone space – which makes up only around 16 percent of the total mobile device market – Apple controls 18 percent of the sector, ranking it third behind Nokia (40 percent) and RIM (21 percent).

So how does Apple back up its number one claim?

It’s all down to how the vendor defines ‘mobile devices.’ 

“Apple gets revenue from three product lines; iPods, iPhones, and, of course, Macs,” said Jobs at the iPad launch. “What’s really interesting is that iPods are mobile devices. iPhones are all mobile devices, and most of the Macs we ship now are laptops. They’re mobile devices too. Apple is a mobile devices company. That’s what we do.”

In short, Apple defines a mobile device as anything that can run without a wired power supply and doesn’t necessarily have cellular connectivity. That’s not a theory for the mobile traditionalists. On the other hand, it does at least put a refreshing twist on the overused industry term ‘convergence.’


Justin Springham, Managing Editor

The editorial views expressed in this article are solely those of the author(s) and will not necessarily reflect the views of the GSMA, its Members or Associate Members