A new smartphone report shows Android growing and iOS flat. One stat stuck out: Among early adopters, 40 percent would opt for an Android device as their next purchase, while only 32 percent would go for an iPhone. Could that be why Apple is slipping?


New numbers from Nielsen released on Thursday show that Android’s market share grew in July while the iOS share stayed relatively flat. One stat in particular from Nielsen stuck out: Among early adopters, 40 percent would opt for an Android device as their next purchase, while only 32 percent would go for an iPhone.

Since the early adopter crowd is the group most likely to cycle through devices quickly, this makes sense. Android handset makers usually don’t adhere to any hard-and-fast update schedule, and they often release multiple devices or iterations of the same device within a single calendar year. If what you’re after is the latest available tech, Android has the edge, regardless of whether or not the overall user experience of iOS is arguably better.

Of course, it helps that Android has around a dozen hardware partners in the U.S. alone offering a variety of devices across all major carriers, but even among that crowd, some single device makers are beginning to pull away from the field with aggressive hardware upgrade plans.

The best example is Samsung, which announced a new 5.3-inch smartphone on Thursday at the IFA 2011 European tech conference. The new Galaxy Note, as the monster phone is called, also has a 1.4 GHz dual-core processor under the hood, as well as a pressure-sensitive touchscreen that can be used with a stylus for accurate drawing, sketching and writing. The huge 5.3-inch display boasts an impressive 1280×800 resolution, on par with many netbooks. Bristling with new shiny bits, it’s an early adopter’s dream device.

The features mentioned above won’t appeal to all, because as Steve Jobs has rightly pointed out in the past, most consumers are after an overall experience, not a list of specs. But one group, namely the early adopter group, is very much focused on the list of specs, and Samsung is showing that you can do well by appealing to that level of interest.

Early adopters buy early and buy often. The nature of Android devices makes it more possible for those on the edge to stay there, no waiting required. Given the rise in popularity of smartphones, combined with a generation of device buyers that grew up using them, we might see more and more consumers comfortable with device updates that are much more frequent than once (or less) yearly.

Apple doesn’t adhere to a strict yearly schedule with its Mac releases; approximately every six to eight months, it introduces minor overhauls and spec bumps when new processor tech is made available to keep its machines more or less current in terms of specifications. Doing the same with an iPhone might make sense and attract the wandering gaze of customers focused firmly on the horizon of mobile tech.

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  1. Could it be that iPhone share fell because Apple owners generally know that the iPhone 5 is being issued soon and they’re holding out? Can’t we just expect to see this pendulum swing back into Apple’s court upon the iPhone 5 release?

  2. First, the Nielsen numbers are for the U.S. only. Second, Apple should iterate iPhones faster because Android makers do? How’s that working for tablets?

    1. tired statement, ask again in about 1-2yrs & lets see how iPad’s marketshare is compared to Android.

      numbers are US only? be grateful, worldwide numbers are even less (Apple around 18% & Android around 53%).

      just the fact Darrell is the 1 writing this article should lend some rationale that Apple needs to diversify their formula if they want to stay relevant in the next 5-10yrs. believe me, nobody wants Windows-like dominance all over again but in the mobile space, but as of right now thats where it’s heading.

      1. Khürt Williams  Teneista Friday, September 2, 2011

        Numbers don’t indicate profitability. Dell and HP have huge markets shares but little profit on their computing products. Apple has a much smaller market share for computer yet that segment of their business is very profitable. Why would Apple follow a model that lead to reduced profitability? Do Apple’s shareholders care about market share bragging rights or profitability?

  3. Michael Schmidlen Thursday, September 1, 2011

    Could it be that the open nature of Android, versus the steeped in paranoid level secrecy, walled-garden approach of Apple is a bigger contributor to this trend??? Is the economy contributing to consumers unwillingness to pay the Apple “premium”? Is Apple’s past history repeating itself???

    1. No, no and no.

  4. Ought to relate early adopters to device pricing. Many Android phones are sold for $250 and less. Perhaps we have much interest based on low pricing.

    Apple’s rumored to be making an iPhone 4′ which will be sold for $300. How the early adopters react to this model will be interesting.

  5. When you can STILL have a hot-selling phone (iPhone4) that’s 15 months old… and even your older 3GS model (27 months old)… why in the world would ANY company say … “let’s release new phones every 3 months”????

    I’m glad gigaom.com doesn’t design phones.

  6. I think the reason the ‘early adopters’ prefer Android has a lot more to do with price. It would be interesting to see how much of the 40% would be left if Apple dropped prices. Remember the majority of Android handsets are free! The fact that the difference is only 8% considering how many Android handsets the iPhone currently stacks up against speaks volumes. There really is no story here and Apple certainly won’t be losing sleep over it!!

    1. Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to find a free Android phone that an “early adopter” would buy. ;)

  7. There are only two factors limiting iPhone sales:

    1) Carriers. Getting the iPhone on China Mobile, Sprint, t-Mobile, etc. etc. etc. will have a huge impact on sales. Currently the iPhone is outselling all Androids put together on AT&T and on Verizon. Think other carriers would be any different.

    2) Apple’s ability to make enough iPhones to meet demand.

    1. Yes, other carriers would be different. Because many people are with AT&T only because they want an iPhone. You are assuming that the customer base of AT&T is randomly selected. It is not. t-Mobile customers who want iPhones already switch to AT&T. If t-Mobile offers an iPhone, there will be takers, but not the same percentage as AT&T and AT&T will see their percentage drop as customers who dislike their service, but stay for the iPhone leave.

  8. Kjetil Uthne Hansen Thursday, September 1, 2011

    “Among early adopters…” who and how many are the early adopters? – who defines the “early adopters”? If the early adopters are those who bought every single iPhone model the first day, and constitute say… 3% of iPhone owners – the ones considering an Android would be some 1,2%.
    In other words – how large is this “early adopter crowd”? – statistics presented this way just don’t make any sense, and only twist the facts.

    Apple don’t need to release iPhones more frequently – they have a system called “updates”; a fun and elegant plot, where users can install new systemsoftware on their phones for free and without effort.
    – I have friends using Android feeling the need to proclaim on Facebook and Twitter about how they “finally managed to upgrade” the phone.

    1. Apple don’t need to release iPhones more frequently – they have a system called “updates”; a fun and elegant plot, where users can install new systemsoftware on their phones for free and without effort.

      Brilliant! Yes, perhaps the frequent Android releases are due to the challenges consumers face in getting update firmware for their devices.

  9. So they’re comparing iOS, which has only one manufacturer, Apple, to Android, which is designed by Google but used by multiple phone carriers across numerous devices? This is the very definition of comparing Apples and oranges. Pardon the pun.

    1. nobody ever used this argument the last decade while Windows was over 95% marketshare. there were hundreds of Windows laptops compared to just a handful of Mac’s but Windows has always been considered king.

      marketshare is marketshare, no one is stopping Apple from releasing multiple models at multiple price levels. therefor that argument cannot be used to “defend” Apples flatlining share.

  10. I think Apple will have to consider an approach that is not just “one size fits all”. Much as they have different computers for different segments, they need to have different devices for people who may want to do different things. Why is it that there is only one screen size for an iphone or ipad?

    Ultimately, Apple’s model of one device with the same chipset is going to have to evolve because the wireless carriers all use different chipsets for 4G LTE that are not compatible with each other. If apple wants to stay relevant in the wireless world they will need LTE and they will be forced to do something that they haven’t in the past, which is make customized models for US carriers. Maybe there will be more changes along with that.

    1. Khürt Williams  ML Friday, September 2, 2011

      “Why is it that there is only one screen size for an iphone or iPad?”

      Because it’s a pain in the ass for developers.

      “Ultimately, Apple’s model of one device with the same chipset is going to have to evolve”

      Why? What money is being left on the table by Apple continuing with it’s current strategy? Where’s the business justification?

      1. It sounds like you’re speaking from the point of view of the Company and an equityholder, which is fine, but did you consider that consumers of the product may have a different point of view? Android doesn’t have a 40%+ share of the market for nothing.

        As far as the business justification for having to evolve, it’s pretty simple. There is no one chipset for LTE that will work for all of the carriers. If Apple wants to offer LTE devices, which I think most people agree they do, they will need to offer carrier specific models in the US.

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