associated with choosing either an Android or iOS (ie iPhone)
Part 5 : Current market shares and
Although iOS based phones
are still more prominent than Android phones, the gap is
narrowing and in terms of new phones sold, Android is now
convincingly outselling iOS.
This article is part of a
series comparing Android based phones with Apple's iPhone
and helping you choose which would be the best option for
Please read through other
parts in the series - see links on the right.
Does it really matter how
popular the two leading phone platforms (Android and iOS) are in
Yes, it does matter, because
the larger the market share, the greater the support in the
developer community, creating a positive feedback loop that in
turn helps the 'winning' phone platform to continue to gain more
market share from its rivals.
With your choice of smartphone
platform today likely being a decision that will flow through to
replacement phone purchases in the future, it is important to
make the best choice possible with an eye not just to present
issues but future trends and likely outcomes.
Market Shares and Future Trends
Measuring market share is
very difficult, because there are many different ways of
measuring market share.
For example, should market
share refer to the currently installed base of phones?
Should it instead refer to new phone sales? Or should it
refer perhaps to phone usage?
Another dimension is
geographical. Market shares are extraordinarily different
in some parts of the world compared to other parts of the world.
Is it fair/appropriate/relevant to view some regions as advance
indicators of how the rest of the world will follow? Can
one fairly draw conclusions of any sort from the differing
market shares in, eg, Benin and Belgium, Cameroon and Canada,
Another dimension is
definitional. What exactly is a smartphone?
Even within a tightly
defined concept (for example, monthly sales) there is still
ambiguity. Are we talking about sales from the
manufacturer to wholesalers, or from wholesalers to retailers,
or from retailers on to customers?
So, with these disclaimers
offered up front, what can we determine about market shares and
In the third quarter of
2010, for the US, Android phones are now outselling iOS phones,
with Android phones getting a 43.6% market share compared to a
26.2% share for iOS and a 24.2% for Blackberry. This left
only 6% to be shared by all other smartphone platforms (such as
Nokia, Palm, and Windows).
But worldwide (also for the
third quarter), Nokia leads with a 33% share, followed by
Android at 25%, Apple at 17% and Blackberry at 15% and 10% for
all other platforms. This information comes from
Of equal interest to current
market shares is the trend in market share. In the US,
Blackberry (which was the market leader prior to the iPhone's
launch in 2007) is headed slowly but surely downwards and has
already dropped from first to second to third place, iOS may be
mildly dropping, and Android is skyrocketing up.
Due to the dynamics of each
OS's marketplace position, it seems reasonable to expect these
trends to continue. At the end of the day, it becomes
almost an unavoidable numbers-game : There are over 100
Android phone choices from multiple manufacturers and using all
major wireless carriers, there is essentially only one Apple iOS
phone choice using only one wireless carrier (in the US), and
only one modern Blackberry choice, available on only one
wireless carrier (in the US).
If there's a bit of a sense
of déjà vu to this, you're correct. We're seeing something
very similar to what happened to Apple with its marketing
strategy for the one-time revolutionary Mac computer.
Lessons from the PC vs Mac
In a sense, what we are
seeing in the smartphone marketplace is exactly the same as what
we saw in the personal computer marketplace back in the 1980s.
To start with, there were a
range of user-unfriendly computers, using different/incompatible
hardware and software.
Apple then launched its
revolutionary new mouse and graphical user based interface
computer, the Mac, in January 1984. This quickly captured
the imagination of computer users the world over and became the
'in' computer for the cogniscenti.
Microsoft responded with its
own mouse/GUI - Windows, which was first released in November
1985. The early versions of Windows were incontrovertibly
inferior to concurrent versions of the Mac OS.
But in 1990, Microsoft
released version 3.0 of Windows, and the gap between it and the
Mac platform narrowed to a no-longer relevant difference for
average computer users - and with the release of Windows 95 (in
1995) only the most truly die-hard dedicated Mac user could
point to any difference or distinction in terms of overall
Even the remaining core
market for Mac computers (such as designers) started to switch
over to Windows based computers, and over time, software
developers changed from first releasing new versions of their
programs on the Mac platform and subsequently porting them over
to Windows, and instead started releasing new versions first
onto Windows and then subsequently porting them over to Macs.
More obvious than the ever
dwindling difference in features was the difference in pricing -
Windows based computers were appreciably less expensive.
And the open architecture of Windows based computers caused more
innovation in terms of add-ons and peripherals than was the case
for Mac computers, with the result that the market share enjoyed
by Mac computers went into steady decline, dropping to as low as
2.1% in 2003, before entering a slow period of resurgence,
largely as a flow-on effect from Apple having reinvented itself
with the release of the iPod, then iPhone, and now iPad.
At present, there may be
something in the order of a 10% (+/- 5%) market share (depending
on how measured) enjoyed by Mac based computers in the US, and
perhaps half that when measured worldwide. Here's just one
of many different sets of
market share statistics.
The Implications of Your Choice
So, if there is little
difference between an iPhone and its iOS software, or any of the
100+ Android based phones, does it really matter which platform
Yes, it does matter, for
First, in the US, if you
choose the iPhone, you remain restricted to service only with
AT&T. This may or may not be an issue, depending on your
degree of signal coverage and satisfaction with AT&T and/or
Note that it is increasingly
expected that Apple will release a version of the iPhone to work
with Verizon's different/incompatible phone service sometime in
the first half of 2011. But even when (if) that occurs,
you still have only two choices of wireless company.
Android phones are available from all the different wireless
companies in the US.
Second, over time you will
spend an increasing amount of money on software, music and video
for your phone (and other devices). The software you buy
can usually be transferred from one phone to another within the
same OS family, but can never be transferred to the other OS
family other than through buying a second copy of it.
Depending on their format
and copy protection, music and video may or may not be
transferrable between OS platforms.
This will increasingly
provide a reason to stay with one OS environment.
In such a case, and based on
these considerations only, which is the better choice?
Present Factors that predict
the Future Success of each OS
We would unhesitatingly
advocate an Android future and see it as being almost
unstoppably the OS which will prevail and grow to dominate the
entire smartphone market.
The differences between
Android and Apple are stark and no longer involve the raw
capabilities of the two different OS's as much as they do
external and marketing type issues.
One gives you access to over
100 different phones from I'm not sure how many different
manufacturers, the other gives you access to one phone from
One gives you access to every
different wireless company, the other gives you access to
only one wireless company's service.
One gives you access to
software from many different sources and suppliers, the
other restricts you to software exclusively through their
own retail storefront (iTunes).
One gives you access to a
wide range of adaptations to the end user interface and
functionality of devices, the other gives you access to
(yes, yet again) only one.
One is an open standards and
even open source based system that welcomes third party
hardware, software, and services. The other is a
closed proprietary system that resists anything and
everything that doesn't go through Apple.
One is high value/low cost.
The other is lower value/higher cost - both in terms of
initial purchase cost and subsequent monthly ownership
This article is part of a
series comparing Android based phones with Apple's iPhone and
helping you choose which would be the best option for you.
Please read through other parts in the series - see links at the
top right of this article.
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published 4 Nov 2010, last update
21 Jul 2020
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