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Summary:

The iPhone may have given up its edge in the U.S. market over Android recently, in terms of smartphone OS share, but globally it still leads Google’s mobile OS. That’s according to market research firm Gartner, who recently conducted a survey of the global smartphone terrain.

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The iPhone may have given up its edge in the U.S. market over Android recently, in terms of smartphone OS share, but globally it still leads Google’s mobile OS. That’s according to market research firm Gartner (via PC World), who recently conducted a survey of the global smartphone terrain covering the first quarter of 2010.

That lead is thanks to two key international markets in which the iPhone still boasts a significant lead over its Google competitor. In Europe and Asia, Apple maintains a lead that amounts to around a 3 million unit advantage over Android. It’s still a significant lead, but the fact is that Android is still in a very strong position in all world markets.

It’s especially strong because it’s the fastest growing of all the smartphone operating systems represented in the survey, and it’s experiencing that growth during a heady time for smartphone sales in general, with global sales overall seeing record increases. Put simply, Android is grabbing the most significant portion of an expanding pie.

Android’s share grew from 1.6 to 9.6 percent in Q1 2010, while Apple’s share went from 10.5 to 15.4 percent. Both are still behind Symbian and RIM, but the shares of both those companies shrank during the period measured. Symbian, the worldwide leader, dropped to 44.3 from 48.8 percent. RIM slid from 20.6 to 19.4. Windows Mobile is the big loser overall, dropping from 10.2 to 6.8 percent, which puts it behind Android in the global rankings.

It’s a mixed bag for Apple. On the one hand, it’s still performing well in the global market, and two of the three major smartphone markets still have them positioned ahead of Android. On the other hand, Android’s growth is meteoric, and the numbers would seem to indicate that customers new to the smartphone market are leaning in Android’s direction overall.

What’s crucial to keep in mind is that Android’s share grew from next to nothing to a significant percentage. It’s highly likely that it’ll continue to have similarly strong performance globally, since it can really only go from nothing to something once. Now that it’s entrenched itself in the market at large, its growth rate will likely slip to something much more reasonable, like Apple’s five percent gain.

Will Android continue to threaten Apple’s piece of the smartphone market pie? No doubt. Will it blow past iPhone OS and emerge as the dominant force in the market? That’s much less likely. Android and Apple will contend with each other on the world stage, but it’ll be a real fight, not a one-sided affair.

Related GigaOM Pro Research: Who Owns Android’s Future? Google — Or Apple?

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  1. Jason Knight Friday, May 21, 2010

    Not much competition when it comes to closed vs. open. Android will prevail, and rather quickly unless Apple rethinks it’s stance on being so closed. One man, one phone, one provider. Not a world anyone wants to live in.

  2. Martin Hill Friday, May 21, 2010

    Bear in mind a lot of this growth is old Windows Mobile smartphone vendors like HTC switching their smartphones over from WM to Android and eating the share of WM, RIM and Symbian as the numbers illustrate. 

    With the iPhone still showing such enormous 50% growth it is far from throwing in the towel. 

    Also Android is actually still far behind the iPhone OS even in the USA in terms of mobile OS platform. Don’t make the mistake of ignoring the iPod Touch or the explosively growing iPad as it’s not just about the phone anymore but the mobile app platform and with 85 million iPhone OS devices out there,  200,000 apps and a download rate far in excess of Android, Google and it’s hardware partners still have a long way to go. 

    -Mart 

  3. Neil Anderson Friday, May 21, 2010

    How many iPhones were given away in 2 for 1 promos?

  4. @JASON KNIGHT

    Actually being in a vertically-integrated world that “just works” is something that 85 million people are more than happy to live in. 

    Likewise, being “open” is not neccessarily a guarantee of success. Look at the the 70-80% market dominance the iPod and iPod Touch and the iTunes store have achieved against the massed forces of Microsoft, Sony, Dell, Creative, HP, the “Plays for Sure” alliance and eveyone else who has tried to take on the iPod/iTunes juggernaut.  

    Here in Australia, the iPhone is now the number two smartphone vendor with analysts expecting it to soon overtake Nokia to become number one despite Android’s advances. 

    -Mart 

  5. Has goog ever announced how many android apps were downloaded?

    If it is a billion then apple has something to fear if the number is embarrassingly small then Apple has nothing to worry about.

  6. You are joking right?

    Adroid will suprpass iPhone sales world wide by the end of the year or early next year.

    There is a new Android based phone almost every month and some of them, Droid Incredible, EVO are as good or better than the iPhone 4.0 that everyone has seen.

    Adroid OS seems to update faster than the iPhone OS. All cell vendors have 1-3 Android phones now, there are something like 28 models for sale world wide.

    It is going to happen and probably faster than most predicted.

    Open vs Closed is being played out now and the writing is on the wall.

    The iPhone 4/HD will slow down Android for 30-60 days and that is it. The other thing that may slow it down is Windows Phone 7 if its good, and it looks to be a Zune phone with Apps. WP7 will also be carried by all cell providers and handsets will bey made by many makers. The leaked rumors of a 1.3ghz HTC handset running WP7 were impressive.

    The iPhone will live on, but it will lose out to Android and probably get a fight from Windows Phone 7.

    And when Android tablets and maybe even WP7 tabelts role out….

    1. This is not an argument about Open vs Closed. The end user has no clue about that nor do they care about that argument.

      This is about business and profits, period. The fact is that Google made a good OS. It’s not as polished or mature as the iPhone OS, but it’s still better than the competition. Google is also practically giving it away. That’s why manufacturers are using it. Good OS, no licensing fees mean a healthier bottom line.

      Any objective observer has to agree that it’s inevitable that Android will have the most market share in 2-3 years, most likely before then. There will just be too many Android phones in the market for Apple to compete with. Carriers and manufacturers will continue to have 2 for 1 sales. Apple can’t compete with that.

      However, at the end of the day this is about business and business is about profits. Both Nokia and RIM are outselling the iPhone right now, but are they really more successful? Apple is already more profitable than them in the Smart phone market and that profitability lead has continued to increase quarter after quarter.

      Yes Android will take the lead in market share. I suspect Apple will remain at #2 and that battle will be competitive. However, I doubt Android will ever be as profitable. So is Android really going to be more successful? Time will tell. There’s only measure that is important at your quarterly earnings report and it’s not market share, it’s profits. In that arena Apple has a commanding lead that I don’t see Google challenging anytime soon!

  7. Android has many phones to choose from and comes from various manufactures, many more apps so android will take the lead anyway

  8. @Larry & naresh
    The pundits all said the same things about the iPod in the early days – there’s no way it can compete with all these other big name manufacturers and music stores all compatible with each other, all selling “Plays for Sure” content. We all know how that turned out.

    Linux on the desktop has also succinctly demonstrated that free and open do not necessarily equal market success.

    Sure, Android might end up with a larger marketshare than the iPhone OS, but as I say, you’d be foolish to say it is a sure thing considering the strength of Apple’s ecosystem and the fragmentation that is already occurring in the Android world.

    Remember, it is the mobile OS platform that is the important thing, not the phone part and Android slates and other devices are far behind the 8-ball competing against the meteoric success of the iPad or the iPod Touch both of which give a major boost to iPhone OS app platform share.

    @adamc
    Android Marketplace app sales are far below the iPhone App store. As Gameloft stated, they make 400x the profit from their iPhones games compared to Android. Last year AdMob estimated that Android Marketplace app purchases were 5 million per month versus 200 million per month from the iPhone App store. That is only 2.5% the amount. Lava Labs estimated sales were even lower.

    Of course in the end, Apple doesn’t necessarily care if the iPhone stays ahead of Android marketshare or not as they already have the highest profit share of the entire mobile phone industry and there are obviously more than enough customers keen to stay in the Apple world, but we’ll just have to sit and watch what actually happens won’t we? :-)

    -Mart

    1. @Mart the iphone the will remain a success with out a doubt. It will just be eclipsed.

      I agree the echo system of the Apple products is the glue that makes it work. However no one has seriously tried yet, to copy it. I think Google with this weeks announcements are going to do that.

      Maybe even Microsoft with Windows Phone 7.

      Apple cares about the numbers, they love to tought the good ones every chance they get.

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  10. a lot of people havent noticed the fact that this is a story of many phones versus 1.

    for 1 phone to put up as close a battle as all of these android models and software iterations, is pretty impressive in my books

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