Smartphone market share information is very useful to developers as a guide to craft a mobile platform strategy, but understanding how to apply the data to such a strategy can be a bit confusing at times. The following will try to add some insight into the current numbers by adding some perspective behind each data source.
What you will see is that globally the Android platform is shipping more devices than iOS — 87 percent to 11 percent — in the U.S., things get a little closer: 51 percent to 42 percent in favor of Android when looking at mobile subscribers, and web usage is dead even at 44 percent to 44 percent. When it comes to app usage and user engagement numbers, iOS begins to edge out Android 89 percent to 76 percent. What is consistent across the data sources is that both Microsoft and Blackberry are clearly not in the race at all.
Worldwide smart phone market
There are three major categories in mobile phone markets: basic phones, feature phones and smartphones. However, the exact definition of a smart phone is and what a feature phone subject to debate. One thing that is clear is that what is generally referred to as a smartphone is overtaking the category of feature phones all around the globe, achieving 57.6 of total mobile phone sales in the fourth quarter of 2013 according to Gartner. A popular way of identifying a smartphone is whether or not you can install an app on it.
That perception is somewhat rooted in reality is when you look at IDC’s Worldwide Market Data. The worldwide smartphone market grew 25.3 percent year over year in the second quarter of 2014 with over 300 million smartphones shipped in that quarter. More than 96 percent of those shipments were either an Android (87.4 percent) or iPhone (11.7 percent) smartphone. That leaves just 3.6 percent of the market to all other smartphone platforms including Microsoft (2.5 percent) and Blackberry (0.5 percent).
Something to keep in mind is that not all smartphones are available in all markets around the world. In fact, some of the fastest growing smartphone markets are being dominated by manufactures that are not as well known here in the U.S.
Take Huawei as an example. As Samsung’s marketshare decreased from 32.2 percent in 2013 to 24.9 percent in 2014, Huawei’s market share grew from 4.3 percent to 6.7 percent, beating out both Lenovo and LG for third place. Huawei is planning on continued growth this year, increasing shipments from 52 million last year to 80 million units in 2014.
U.S. domestic smartphone market
Although it measures worldwide data, IDC’s data tracks shipments instead of sales. And even sales numbers are not necessarily the best data points to use when trying to figure out what devices people are actually using. In fact, OnePoll updated its annual survey for SellCell.com earlier this year and concluded that there approximately $47 billion worth of unused cell phones in consumers’ hands this year, which is up from $34 billion last year. The point being that shipments and sales don’t always lead to devices that are being used day in and day out.
ComScore, on the other hand, looks at things differently. Not only do it look primarily at the U.S. domestic smartphone market, it also looks at it based on the number of subscribers. Earlier this month, comScore noted that iOS (Apple) represented 42.1 percent of the domestic smartphone market and Android represented 51.9 percent. While this data paints a very different picture compared to the worldwide numbers offered by IDC, there is one major similarity: the combined market share for both iOS and Android is 94 percent. And that number is up from 92 percent combined share in 2013. Microsoft has 3.4 percent of the remaining market share whereas Blackberry has only 2.4 percent.
How does this compare to the cell phone market overall in the U.S.? There are now 173 million smartphones in the U.S., which represents 72 percent of the market this year compared to only 59 percent a year ago. It almost begs the question: why we continue to distinguish between smartphones, feature phones and basic phones? It appears as if every phone will soon be labeled as a smartphone.
Smartphone web usage data
Web traffic is one way to gauge how people are using their smartphones. Looking at mobile and tablet operating system share trends from NetMarketShare, iOS has slowly and steadily been losing ground to Android and in July of 2014 the tide finally turned. In June iOS represented 45.61 percent compared to Android’s 43.75 percent, then in July iOS fell to 44.19 percent as Android climbed to 44.62 percent. Even though the combined total adds up to just 88.81 percent, JavaME eats up 4.19 percent and Symbian another 2.57 percent, leaving Windows at 2.94 percent. Data from Chitika corroborates these findings, showing that iOS had 53.1 percent of smartphone usage compared to Android’s 44.5 percent followed by Windows at just 1.0 percent.
Other than the web browser, one of the other most used features of a smartphone is its camera. Looking at Flickr camera data, Apple is ahead of both Canon and Nokia when it comes to the most popular cameras uploading photos online. In fact, the five iPhone models add a combined total of 865,000 uploads per day, compared to 170,000 daily uploads from Samsung, the leading Android manufacturer for photo uploads, who is currently holding the number four position on Flickr after Canon and Nokia. While this data does not show that there are more iPhones than Samsung phones, it does show that the iPhones that are out there are taking and uploading an awful lot of photos to Flickr.
App store usage and engagement
What is left are the apps. Looking at app store revenue between the Apple App Store and Google Play, Distimo, an AppAnnie company, shows that Apple has 61 percent of the market compared to Google’s 39 percent. Like the browser data, the trend is showing that Google is gaining on Apple. In November of 2013 the numbers were at 63 percent for Apple and 37 percent for Google. Similar to the Flickr data showing a disproportionate number of uploads, iPhones users are likely to pay more for or purchase a larger number of apps given that there are more Android devices then iOS devices.
Earlier this month Forrester came out with a report that took a look at users on iOS and Android used apps. In every category surveyed, iOS users proved to be a more engaged group of users than those on Android: 71 percent to 65 percent for Weather apps, 63 percent to 56 percent for Social Networking, 60 percent to 52 percent for Maps and Navigation, and the list goes on. Overall, the survey found that iOS users were using apps more often than Android, 89 percent to 76 percent, respectively.