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Apple overtakes Nokia to claim handset profit crown


Analysts estimate Apple's iPhone operating profit to be the highest in the mobile phone industry, overtaking market leader Nokia in the last financial quarter.

Although Nokia and Samsung are the world's largest two cellphone makers, Apple has bested both in terms of total operating profit, says research firm Strategy Analytics.

Reuters reports that although Apple does not disclose profits by line, operating profit was estimated at nearly $1.6 billion in the third quarter of this year, compared to $1.1 billion in profit by Nokia for the same period of time.

The news only serves to reiterate what has been known for some time: Apple, along with competitor Research in Motion, carries a much higher profit margin on its handsets than competitors. This summer, a report stated that though Apple and RIM together only control 5 percent of the cell phone market, they take 58 percent of its total operating profits.

Another report said that Apple sees an estimated 32 percent of global handset profits, which is 8 percent of all mobile revenue. Those numbers are not just limited to the smartphone market segment, but account for all mobile phones sold in the first half of 2009.

Last quarter, Apple announced that the average selling price of each iPhone is just over $600, demonstrating that consumers typically opt for the high-end iPhone 3GS. Though consumers only pay a fraction of the value of the handset, the rest is subsidized through a contract with a wireless carrier.

Tuesday, Samsung introduced a new smartphone platform dubbed Bada, which is poised to directly compete with both the iPhone and Android platforms. Bada is an attempt by Samsung to create its own self-contained smartphone operating system like competitors Apple, Palm, and RIM. The first phones sporting the new Bada platform are slated for early in 2010.

Nokia also has a new operating system in the works, called Maemo. Nokia's first Maemo-based phone, the N900 started shipping Tuesday.