By Philip Elmer-DeWitt
March 15, 2013

FORTUNE — In an interview about the impact of Samsung’s Galaxy S4 on Apple (AAPL), Anouch Seydtaghi, deputy economics editor for the Swiss newspaper Le Temps, asked Asymco‘s Horace Dediu what seemed like a perfectly reasonable question:

Q: Can Apple regain the lead in the smartphone market? If yes, how?

Dediu responded, characteristically, with a chart:

A: Apple had leadership in the phone market for two quarters (see graphic).

It’s a myth to think that Apple was dominant for any extended period of time. The top spot is very difficult to obtain unless a company has a large portfolio of products which are sold in all markets. Apple has less than half the operator distribution of Samsung and keeps only one new product in the market each year.

Apple also has a very high price due to the distribution model it uses for the iPhone. The primary buyers are operators who made large volume purchase commitments a few years ago. The iPhone strategy can be summarized as “skimming” where they pick the most profitable customers rather than “penetration” where there is a focus on market share. It’s therefore very surprising that Apple was able to ship as many phones as it did.

You can read the rest of the interview at Asymco.com.

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