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Apple created the modern concept of a touch screen smartphone, but after two or three years of unquestioned dominance, it is now being displaced by Android based phones.

Android's rapid catching up to Apple and its current outselling of iPhones seems likely to extend even more notably into the future.

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Issues associated with choosing either an Android or iOS (ie iPhone) based phone

Part 5 :  Current market shares and future trends

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 you.

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 the marketplace?

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, etc?

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 future trends.

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 this report.

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 dj 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 History

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 capabilities.

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 you choose.

Yes, it does matter, for several reasons.

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 other carriers.

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 manufacturer.

  • 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 costs.

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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Originally published 4 Nov 2010, last update 21 Jul 2020

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.

Related Articles
Should you choose an Android based smartphone or iOS based Apple iPhone
Part 1 :  Introduction, Executive Overview, History
Part 2 :  The unnecessary restrictions imposed on you by Apple if choosing an iPhone
Part 3 :  Hardware issues between Android and iPhones
Part 4 :  Performance and Compatibility issues
Part 5 :  Market shares and trends
Part 6 :  Other OS choices for smartphones
Part 7 :  Pricing and Conclusion

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