When discussing smartphone markets in the "Asia-Pacific" region, the two countries that tend to be discussed most are Japan and China, albeit for separate reasons. The former is a developed nation with a high per-capita GDP, a technologically savvy population, and a large premium smartphone market. On the other hand, China is an important growth market due to its huge population and rapidly growing GDP.
Somewhat lost in the Asia-Pacific conversation is Australia. In fact, while Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) reports both Japan and China's revenue figures individually, the company couches Australia within its catch-all Asia-Pacific geographical designation. That's understandable, as its population of 23 million makes the country relatively small for individual reporting, but also unfortunate because Australia's huge GDP per capita of $67,500 as of 2013 makes the country fertile ground for Apple's premium-priced products.
Still, the Land Down Under appears to like what Apple has to offer. If the newest data from research firm IDC are correct, Apple has grabbed the smartphone market share lead in Australia from high-end competitor Samsung (NASDAQOTH: SSNLF).
Apple also recently overtook Samsung in terms of smartphone market share in China, and now sits at No. 1 in that massive market. IDC's report thus confirms that Apple continues to grow in the Asia-Pacific region.
IDC shows China-like growth for Apple's iPhone in Australia
Overall, the results are great for Apple in Australia. Last year, the company trailed Samsung in first-quarter smartphone market share by 2 percentage points (38% versus 40%). This year, Apple firmly wrestled market share away from Samsung in the first quarter -- falling slightly short of a majority of shipments (49%) and increasing its market share by 11 percentage points. Samsung took the brunt of Apple's market share growth, losing 9 percentage points to hold a 31% share of the Australian smartphone market in Q1 2015.
Overall, total smartphone shipments in Australia increased by 29.2% year-over-year last quarter. Apple increased its market share via 66% year-over-year unit growth -- more than double the market's overall growth during that time frame. Samsung, on the other hand, shipped 1% fewer phones to Australia during Q1 than in the prior-year period.
While it is important to note that shipments and sales aren't the same, IDC specifically mentioned excess channel inventory as a headwind to shipments during the quarter. If this was true for Apple -- IDC did not break out excess channel inventory by vendor -- it could mean that iPhone sales exceeded shipments -- a great thing for investors.
The iPhone 6 continues to reward investors in markets large and small
Again, it's important to reiterate that Australia is a relatively small market. According to IDC, a total of 2.32 million smartphone units were shipped to the country/continent in the first quarter. As a hypothetical, even if Apple had a monopoly on the market and all units shipped were sold, this would only equal 3.8% of Apple's first-quarter iPhone unit sales. At its 49% share, the percentage of Apple's total sales drops to a mere 1.9% of its 61.2 million iPhones sold last quarter.
But what the data show is that the iPhone 6 is continuing to outperform in most markets. Whether the market is small, large, fully developed, or developing, the phone is exceeding sales expectations. IDC's new report on shipments to Australia only confirms Apple's iPhone 6 dominance