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Market research firm comScore (s scor) has released its survey of some 30,000 mobile subscribers from November through February, providing the first real data on the impact of the Verizon (s vz) iPhone (s aapl) in the U.S. The iPhone’s market share increased 0.2 percent over the three-month period, from 25 percent to 25.2 percent. That relatively small increase (Android (s goog) jumped seven percent) has generated a large amount of provocative commentary, such as Business Insider declaring, “iPhone dead in water,” but the reality is a little more nuanced.
First, the Verizon iPhone went on sale Feb. 10, meaning less than three weeks of its sales were accounted for during the three-month period surveyed by comScore. Second, going back to the end of January, comScore had iPhone market share at 24.7 percent, down from 25 percent in December. The increase from January to February was actually 0.5 percent. That compares a little more favorably to Android, which saw an increase of 1.8 percent. For Apple, it also suggests a late surge in sales in February, which coincides with the Verizon iPhone launch.
Finally, there are the actual phones to consider. While the number of mobile subscribers in the U.S. using Motorola (s mmi) devices dropped nearly one percent, and RIM (s rimm) dropped 0.2 percent, Apple saw an increase of just under one percent. That’s triple the growth of Samsung, a leading Android OEM. That’s important because Samsung, as well as every other device manufacturer, has access to the entire U.S. market of some 300 million subscriptions. In comparison, Apple reaches about 200 million with AT&T (s t) and Verizon, though that will change should AT&T complete its planned acquisition of T-Mobile. That would add another 34 million potential iPhone users, but not until 2012. That’s where the blame, if any, lies in Apple’s current smartphone strategy: the lack of universal, carrier-agnostic access to the iPhone.
However, despite that failure, the iPhone has managed to maintain its market share at around 25 percent in the face of the universal availability of Android. In stark contrast, RIM has fallen from 42 percent to 29 percent, and Microsoft (s msft) and HP (s hpq) have seen their market share halved in the last year. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say the iPhone is treading water in the U.S., while the Verizon iPhone is finally putting a little breeze in the sails. With the possibility of new hardware/software and wider availability all looming, counting Apple out of the fight is an egregious mistake.