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Apple's Share of Mobile Phone Industry Profits Gets a Boost

Two new iPhones for sale during the holidays weren't enough to boost Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) share of global shipments compared to the year-ago quarter. Apple's share of the global smartphone market declined in the fourth quarter of 2013 to 17.9% from 20.9% in the year-ago quarter, according to data from IDC.

The media often uses numbers like these to paint a tragic picture of Apple's slide in market share in the company's most important market. But a look at Apple's share of industry profits based on data from Raymond James analyst Tavis McCourt (cited by tells quite a different story.

Apple is doing just fine

Here are three reasons why:

1. Apple's share of mobile phone profits is increasing. Thanks to a combination of robust iPhone sales in the fourth quarter and continued pricing power, Apple's iPhone segment is still raking in loads of cash for the company. More importantly, Apple has claim to a larger portion of the mobile phone industry's earnings than it did last year. In the year-ago quarter, Apple accounted for 77.8% of the mobile phone industry's earnings before interest and taxes. In the fourth quarter of 2013, that figure grew to 87.4%

2. Apple, along with Samsung, has unrivaled scale advantages. Apple and Samsung's profit data show just how tough it is to make money in the mobile phone industry. Since many other vendors are losing money, Apple and Samsung's share of the industry's profit go beyond 100%. Together, they account for about 120% of the industry's earnings. No manufacturer beyond Apple and Samsung has made any meaningful progress at snapping up a solid sliver of this lucrative market.

3. Apple is beating Samsung where it counts. With Samsung accounting for the other chunk of industry profits, the South Korea-based company is obviously Apple's greatest threat. Fortunately for Apple investors, the data suggests that Samsung isn't gaining on Apple's share of profits. Samsung may be gaining share at Apple's expense in smartphone shipments, but it's losing share of industry earnings. A year ago, Samsung had a 32.2% share of the industry's earnings. In the fourth quarter of 2013, that figure fell to 26.1%.

Market share comes in other forms than shipments
Sure, shipment market share matters. But it's just one way to look at things. Investors should also consider smartphone manufacturers' share of web usage and industry profits to get a better idea of the competitive environment.

Apple's continued dominance in mobile phone industry profits is good news for investors. At the end of the day, it takes shipments and earnings to build a business. And when it comes to capturing earnings in the mobile phone market, Apple is performing exceptionally. More accurately, Apple is performing lucratively.

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Daniel Sparks

Daniel is a senior technology specialist at The Motley Fool. To get the inside scoop on his coverage of technology companies, follow him on Twitter.

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