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A new analytical report published today covering the latest smartphone sales data from for the three months to March 2014, shows Apple performing strongly in the first quarter of the year, with sales bouncing back in Europe, Japan and Australia.


Dominic Sunnebo, strategic insight director at Kantar Worldpanel ComTech note in his report that "Apple regained ground in the first quarter of 2014, primarily due to the strong performance of the iPhone 5S, growing its sales share in Europe, Japan and Australia.


Though you can't ignore Apple's strong emerging market statistics. During this month's financial conference call, Apple's CEO Tim Cook stated that "hopefully this quarter demonstrates to you that we can do well in a number of geographies from emerging markets to the developed markets." Cookd noted that "Brazil was up 61%, Russia was up 97%, Turkey was up 56%, India up 55% and Vietnam was up 262%. I could go on but the point is that there are a number of markets out there where we're beginning to really catch on with. These haven't been particular strong points for Apple. We've been working on China for a while and we learned a lot and I'm very proud of what we've done there. We grew 28% in China bucking IDC's forecast for the industry at 20%."


The Kantar report particularly noted that Apple had been particularly successful in Japan where, in the past quarter, it has secured 81% of Softbank sales, 59% at KDDI AU and 42% of smartphone sales on NTT DoCoMo.


What attracted Japanese consumers to the iPhone 5S? The study found that 30% of consumers were attracted to the iPhone's sharp design while 29% chose it for its 4G capability and 24% for the iPhone's reliability reputation.


Kantar's director further noted that "Japan's love affair with Apple shows no sign of fading. Even though the iPhone has only recently been on Japan's largest carrier NTT DoCoMo, it accounted for 42% of the sales on that network. Better yet, the success of the iPhone is also filtering through to the iPad, with almost a quarter of Japanese iPhone owners also owning an iPad. With smartphone penetration in Japan lagging well behind Europe and the US, Japan will remain a key growth market for Apple."


The only negative found in the report related to Apple missing out on the phablet trend in China where growth continued unabated. As of March, smartphones 5" displays or larger made up 40% of smartphone sales.


We noted as far back as September 02, 2013 that Apple passing on this tread was a real head scratcher. Even today it's unclear whether Apple will actually deliver an iPhone with a 5" display in 2014. The Taiwanese Commercial Times recently reported that Apple's rumored 5.5" iPhone is being pushed into 2015 due to Apple's demand for a radically smaller battery supporting a new thinner design dubbed the iPhone Air. This could hold back sales in many countries including China.


Kantar's director added that "It's clear that phablets really are changing the way Chinese consumers use smartphones. More than one in five phablet owners now watch mobile TV on a daily basis, half do so at least once a month, and this is without widespread availability of 4G."


The sooner Apple enters this phablet market the better. At present, there's only been one rumor reporting on the larger iPhone being delayed into 2015 and so we can't rule out the possibility that it's still on Apple's 2014 roadmap just yet.


For now, Apple has regained its momentum and that's great heading into their World Wide Developer Conference which kick-starts on June 2. We're bound to see a few surprises at this event to keep Apple's momentum rolling.   


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