How Samsung's 10 Million Galaxy S5 Sales Stack Up Against the iPhone

Photographer: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg

Samsung's Galaxy S5 smartphone. Close

Samsung's Galaxy S5 smartphone.

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Photographer: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg

Samsung's Galaxy S5 smartphone.

Samsung Electronics sold 10 million Galaxy S5 units worldwide in the smartphone's first 25 days on the market, according to the Korea Economic Daily. Sounds like a lot of phones in just three and a half weeks, but let's take a look at previous product debuts for some context.

While the newspaper didn't cite where it got the number, the announcement is consistent with previous ones from the South Korean technology giant. Samsung had said it took seven months to sell 10 million of the original Galaxy S and five months for the Galaxy S2.

By the time the Galaxy S3 came around in 2012, Samsung had seriously upped its game. It sold 10 million S3s in a third of the time of its predecessor. The S4 hit the 10 million milestone in 27 days, a 46 percent improvement on the S3 debut.

Through that lens, the Galaxy S5 represents a modest acceleration of about 7 percent in early sales compared with the S4. That's despite Samsung throwing in as much as $600 in freebies with the S5, including PayPal vouchers, premium LinkedIn accounts and a bunch of fitness apps. Samsung didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Samsung was criticized by the usual suspects for not going far enough with the S5, which added a fingerprint reader, better camera, heart-rate sensor and water-resistant coating. But Samsung is also getting squeezed on all sides by Chinese upstarts making low-end mobile devices at razor-thin margins, an anticipated slowdown for smartphone shipments globally and a distracting court battle with Apple. Last month, Samsung's mobile-phone business posted its lowest sales in five quarters, and the company's share of the world's smartphone market fell for the first time in four years, according to researcher Strategy Analytics.

Photographer: Angel Navarette/Bloomberg

Samsung's Galaxy S5 smartphone. Close

Samsung's Galaxy S5 smartphone.

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Photographer: Angel Navarette/Bloomberg

Samsung's Galaxy S5 smartphone.

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Comparing Apple and Samsung launch sales is somewhat, um, apples and oranges. The Galaxy S5 was available in 125 countries when it came out on April 11. The iPhone 5s and 5c, which debuted on Sept. 20, were in 11 markets to start. Whereas Samsung likes to race itself to 10 million units, Apple prefers the Hollywood box-office method. The company usually releases iPhones on a Friday and then discloses how many units it has sold in each product's opening weekend, which covers the first three days of sales.

The original iPhone released in 2007 took about 74 days to sell a million, according to Apple. The next two models, the 3G and 3GS, hit that mark in their first weekends. The iPhone 4 sold 1.7 million units in its first few days; the 4s was 4 million; and the 5 was 5 million. The most recent iPhone launch reached 9 million, but the figure included two models — the 5s and 5c — instead of the usual one. It was also the first time Apple released new iPhones in China on day one, which surely helped to juice the numbers — although a version for China Mobile, the country's largest carrier, didn't come until January.

To recap: Samsung sold 10 million Galaxy S5s in 25 days, and Apple sold 9 million of two new iPhone models in one-eighth the time. Apple is the master of the blockbuster product debut, but Samsung wins by flooding the zone. The South Korean company still sells more of its countless smartphone variations than Apple does, even with the iPhone maker's "Avengers"-scale opening weekends.

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