In smartphones, same old story: Apple and Android win

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Smartphones were up 74 percent in the second quarter of 2010, accounting for a full quarter of overall mobile sales, versus just 17 percent last year, according to Research firm Gartner. Meanwhile, overall mobile device sales increased by 16.5 percent year over year. The companies benefiting most from the increased drive toward smartphones? Apple and Google.


Android and iOS combined represented a total of just under 62 percent of all worldwide smartphone sales in the second quarter of 2011, doubling the combined market share percentage of the Google and Apple smartphone platforms during the same period last year. Android and iOS were the only two major platforms that saw significant growth year over year, too. Nokia’s Symbian plummeted from 40.9 to 22.1 percent of global smartphone sales, while Research In Motion’s BlackBerry platform also stumbled from 18.7 to 11.7 percent. Microsoft didn’t fare well, either, falling from 4.9 to just 1.6 percent.

But taking a closer look at the combined Android and iOS 62 percent market share reveals that Google’s mobile OS, not Apple’s, is doing most of the heavy lifting. Android was the biggest gainer overall by a significant margin, growing from 17.2 to 43.4 percent of smartphone sales, while iOS showed more modest growth, going from 14.1 to 18.2 percent.

Still, Apple did more than double its total number of units shipped, from 8.7 million iPhones sold in the second quarter of 2010 to 19.6 million during the same time frame in 2011, even without a new hardware release. Apple also managed to climb to fourth overall in global mobile-device sales during the quarter, compared with a sixth-place ranking last year. Samsung, arguably Apple’s biggest competition in terms of hardware manufacturers, actually lost ground, falling 1.5 percentage points in worldwide handset sales year over year.

According to former Nokia executive and industry watcher Tomi Ahonen, who weighed in on the Gartner numbers on Thursday by combining them with sales data reported by major mobile manufacturers and other research firms like IDC, Apple is also on top of the heap when it comes to smartphone manufacturers, with 19 percent of market share for the second quarter of 2011. Ahonen also ranks iOS second in terms of overall operating system share, with 19 percent, edging out Nokia’s 16 percent. But even by Ahonen’s cumulative estimates, Android still has a dominant lead, with 41 percent of mobile OS share.

It’s easy to see this data point as yet another example of Android’s growing triumph over Apple in the smartphone battle, but that’s much too simplistic a view. Apple is still showing significant growth in worldwide smartphone sales, and it accounts for an increasing part of the device manufacturer picture. Android’s scattershot approach definitely has won it a presence in more markets at prices more affordable to a range of buyers, but Apple is still dominating the revenue picture. Also, some are beginning to think that Android might be poised to suffer a painful, drawn-out death by a thousand cuts from patent licensing issues, and Google’s recent decision to speak out against patent law seems to back that up.

Android may be doing most of the work when it comes to buoying the good ship smartphone, but Apple still seems to be plotting the course. As long as the growth of iOS stays positive and Apple keeps selling more and more hardware, the iPhone has nothing to fear from Android’s successes, in the same way the Mac line has nothing to fear from the PC industry it continues to be dwarfed by but also outpace.

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