More secrets revealed: Galaxy Tab’s uninspiring U.S. sales numbers

Apple(s AAPL) isn’t the only one that’s had to reveal secrets in the course of its patent infringement trial with Samsung. A report submitted as evidence shows Samsung’s actual U.S. sales of the Galaxy Tab — and they’re really low compared to the worldwide sales the company has been reporting.

For example, in December 2010, the first quarter Samsung’s tablet launched, it announced it had sold 1 million units worldwide. According to court documents AllThingsD and CNET published yesterday, Samsung sold 262,000 in the U.S. Back in December 2010, it was reported that 100,000 Tabs were sold in Samsung’s home market in South Korea. But even at the time we wondered where the rest of the 900,000 sales were going. If 262,000 were in the U.S., that leaves more than 600,000 sales unaccounted for. And if they weren’t selling in the U.S., the world’s largest tablet market, well, where did they go?

The discrepancy in numbers occurs again in the second quarter of 2012. A research report from IDC last week showed Samsung sold 2.3 million Galaxy Tabs worldwide. The court documents show that in the U.S., between April and June, Samsung sold 37,000 units. (Yes, there was an injunction issued on sales of the Tab 10.1, but it wasn’t until the very end of the quarter.)

Is it possible that a tablet that’s not selling well in the U.S. is thriving and selling millions outside the country? Sure. But the more likely explanation boils down to the problem with reporting numbers of products shipped versus sold. It comes up over and over again. Does selling to a retailer count as “sold” if the product sits on a shelf in a store instead of in the hands of a customer?

This same evidence also sheds light on Apple’s internal sales numbers. They show Apple has sold 166 million iOS devices in its home country since 2007 (iPhone, iPad and iPod touch). Apple’s reported around 400 million total iOS sales worldwide. That means 334 million, or about 58 percent were sold somewhere outside the U.S. As Apple has reported, in 2012, its international business accounts for somewhere between 58 percent and 64 percent of its sales — so it adds up.

Even though the numbers don’t reveal anything embarrassing for Apple, the entire exercise of this trial has forced open Apple’s very secret world of product design and marketing. From pre-production prototypes of the iPad, to internal company emails about plans for a smaller iPad, and clues into the company’s culture, Apple has made a huge tradeoff in being a part of this litigation.

Samsung has also had embarrassing internal documents and conversations revealed during the trial. But while Apple shouts about its sales numbers every quarter, Samsung very purposely does not talk about devices sales figures at all anymore. The company only reveals percentages of device sales improvement. So, these latest numbers revealing Samsung’s uninspiring tablet sales in the U.S. is probably just as painful for the company as Apple’s prototype photos being pasted all over the web.