Blog Post

iPhone Holding on Against Android as RIM Collapses

Stay on Top of Enterprise Technology Trends

Get updates impacting your industry from our GigaOm Research Community
Join the Community!

According to analytics firm comScore (s scor), smartphone OS market share continues trending Google’s (s goog) way in the U.S. Counting some 75 million mobile subscribers for the three-month rolling average ending in March, Android climbed to 34.7 percent, up from 28.7. That six-percentage-point increase is less than Android’s growth in the previous quarter, but still big. Apple (s aapl) saw a little growth, from 25 to 25.5 percent, which was about double that of the previous three-month period. The rise can possibly be attributed to some 2.2 million Verizon (s vz) iPhones sold during the quarter, though the collapse of RIM (s rimm) is probably having a larger impact.

The BlackBerry maker saw its share decline to 27.1 percent, down 4.5 percent from three months ago. To put that in perspective, a year ago RIM accounted for about 40 percent of smartphone OS market share in the U.S. It’s hard to imagine anything worse than that, except for Microsoft (s msft) and Palm (s hpq), both of which have seen their market share halved from a year ago. While HP (s hpq) remains flat at 2.8 percent of the market, Microsoft dipped from 7.7 to 7.5 percent, suggesting Windows Phone 7 has failed to stop the company’s decline.

What this means for Apple is that, simply by not failing like its competitors, and even without a new iPhone in June, Apple will pass RIM in terms of U.S. smartphone OS market share this summer. (It already did so in the global market.) Not surprisingly, the same can be said for handset share, too.

Apple is closing on RIM in the race among handset OEMs, with the iPhone climbing from 6.8 percent to 7.9 percent in the last three months. Currently fourth in the U.S., Apple will pass RIM in the next three months, as the Canadian company saw its own share of handsets decline from 8.5 to 8.4 percent. In third, Motorola (s mmi) dropped nearly a full percentage point, down to 15.8 percent. If current trends continue — and there’s nothing to suggest they won’t — Apple could be the third-largest manufacturer of phones in the U.S. by this time next year.

Going back to Android’s dominance in smartphone operating systems, it should be noted that including tablets like the iPad and handhelds like the iPod touch, the numbers change drastically. According to comScore, as of just last month, the combined installed base of iOS users was some 59 percent greater than that of Android users. That’s important because, to date, Android tablets have failed to significantly impact the tablet market. Currently, there is no competition for the iPod touch, though Samsung is launching the Galaxy Player against Apple’s media player supermajority. Good luck with that.

The takeaway here is that accounting for mobile operating systems across devices, instead of just on smartphones, Google’s chances of achieving the kind of dominance in mobile computing that Microsoft did with traditional computers is much less likely. That means the iOS platform won’t become a niche market the way the Mac did in the late ’90s, and that’s what really matters for Apple’s customers.

12 Responses to “iPhone Holding on Against Android as RIM Collapses”

  1. Apple has a single leading smartphone device, the iPhone 4, while Android has dozens of leading devices. Things would look drastically different if you compare the iPhone 4 to *each* Android model (where iPhone would clearly be the winner.)

    Also, this is US market and not tablets. While stats like this are somewhat helpful in seeing things on a large scale, they’re hardly an indicator of business success/fail.

  2. Michael

    People have abandoned Blackberry and embraced the iPhone and Android because you can buy an app at a reasonable price…and because many are free. I NEVER bought an app for my Blackberry because they were expensive and terrible…but I have hundreds for my iPhone. And….if I had an Android phone…I am sure that I would happily own many for it!

  3. CaTiC

    Yet, RIM’s sales have increased (by 30% over last year if I recall). This means that the US smartphone market is expanding (almost explosively) and that almost all smartphone manufacturers are benefiting from such an expansion. Not taking this factor into account in your blog presents RIM unfairly as it would have to outsell Samsung by 33% in order to maintain its 30% market share in the US. Also, note that the US expansion rate is unique as the market share is much different elsewhere in the world.

    Finally, note that RIM’s US market share GREW for 2 months following its Playbook announcement; this growth was at the expense of Android and was the fastest growth of all manufacturers. To me, this is a clear indication that US customers are still very much interested in the RIM OS and services.

    • RIM recently cut its profit forecast, sending the stock price tumbling, but months and months before that the company stopped reporting ASPs. RIM is suffering from the same problem that recently had the CEO of Nokia declaring the “platform burning,” losing the high-end and trying in vain to make up for it by selling on the low end. We all know how that worked out for Nokia, and there’s no reason to think it will be any different for RIM. It won’t be until sometime in 2012 that the company will have QNX-based smartphones. Until then, we will continue to see Android and iOS taking chunks out of RIM’s market share, and then, like Microsoft and Windows Phone, RIM will have to attempt to generate developer and consumer interest while abandoning its previous platform. However, unlike Microsoft, RIM has no successful divisions to fall back on, a half-done tablet being hardly worth mentioning.

      To quote from the Battlestar Galactica re-imagining, “all this has happened before, and all this will happen again.”

  4. “…It should be noted that including tablets like the iPad and handhelds like the iPod touch, the numbers change drastically…”

    non sequitur. Those are NOT phones – WTF?

    • william

      Not that complicated Todd. Android is an operating system, and so is the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad’s iOS. Since we’re basically talking about operating systems, those other devices are relevant.

    • Martin Hill

      No, the WTF is why you think the much smaller smartphone segment of the OS platform is more important than the total OS size and should not even be mentioned in passing when comparing “OS platforms”  Do you always only ever compare laptop market share and ignore desktops when comparing Windows to Mac OS X and Linux? No of course you don’t. 

      We are after all talking “OS platform” here. That’s far more important than the smaller phone subset for developers, advertisers, 3rd party hardware peripheral manufacturers, investors and consumers.  

      Just because Android is missing in action with viable competitors to the iPod touch and iPad doesn’t mean you can put on the blinkers and ignore half of the iOS platform just so that Android wins.

      Cudos to Charles for having the guts to mention in passing the whole picture although he neglected to mention that in Europe iOS is actually 116% bigger then Android in addition to being 59% bigger in the USA. 


      • Kumaran

        But the title of the graph says “Top US SMARTPHONE OS Platforms,” implying that only the iPhone will be compared with the rest of the market

      • Martin Hill

        Yes and I am saying the graph is quite useless.

        Let me ask you what possible use it is to compare a single phone from one manufacturer – the iPhone – against hundreds of phones and tablets (yes, comScore’s numbers include tablets like the Dell Streak and Galaxy tab because they have cellular radios and carrier contracts) from dozens of manufacturers that happen to all run the same operating system – Android?

        If you answer “to find out which largest represents the largest platform for developers ornadvertisers” then of course you have to include all devices that run iOS as well to have any credibility whatsoever.

        You either have to compare smartphone vs smartphone or OS vs OS.  You can’t have it half one way and half the other way just so your favorite platform can appear to win.


      • jfutral

        What I am curious about is how many of those “subscribers” are active used phones. What I mean is, what is the basis of those figures? Is it like calculating simple interest? Or is it compounded in some way?

        In other words, let’s say we have 20 smartphone users. Is the calculation based on the 20 smartphones those users use, so only 20 smart phones are being counted? Let’s say 10 of those users are Android users, and 10 are iPhone users.

        What if those 10 Android users bought new Android phones (either to replace broken units or to upgrade to the latest and greatest), in the one year period studied. Does that figure now become 20 Android subscribers vs 10 iPhone even though we are still only talking about 20 users?

        Where this could affect market share figures is since the iPhone does not introduce a new phone except yearly at the earliest, the figures would be skewed since iPhone owners aren’t in a more frequent upgrade cycle.

        I don’t know. I could be wrong, but it is a question I wonder about. But there are already strange tactics in calculating market share in any industry, not just cell phones. I remember when many analysts wouldn’t count all of the early iMacs. Each colour would count as a separate number. Even Windows share isn’t based on actual computers running Windows, since MS charged a hardware maker for a Windows license even if the computer sold did not have Windows with it.

        Just curious.