Android worldwide smartphone share leaps to 75%

Smartphones running Google's Android software have leapt to 75% share of worldwide smartphone shipments, according to market tracker IDC.

Top-end Androids like Samsung's Galaxy S III (which is expected to sell 30 million this year) are holding their own against Apple's iPhone.

But the Android camp's overall dominance is due to its lock on cheaper smartphones at a time when lower-end "feature phones" are being phased out (in September, Vodafone NZ told NZ it was moving to an all-smartphone line-up. CEO Russell Stanners said the move made sense at a time when the cheapest Androids had fallen under $100).

Elsewhere, IDC finds familiar trends: Windows-based phones are gaining traction, albeit off a low base. RIM's BlackBerry continues to fall away, as does Nokia's Symbian.

Top Six Smartphone Mobile Operating Systems, Shipments, and Market Share, Q3 2012 (Preliminary; Units in Millions) 

Click to zoom. iOS = iPhone; Symbian = Nokia

According to IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, total Android smartphone shipments worldwide reached 136.0 million units, accounting for 75.0% of the 181.1 million smartphones shipped in 3Q12. The 91.5% year-over-year growth was nearly double the overall market growth rate of 46.4%.

"Android has been one of the primary growth engines of the smartphone market since it was launched in 2008," said Ramon Llamas, research manager, Mobile Phones at IDC. "In every year since then, Android has effectively outpaced the market and taken market share from the competition. In addition, the combination of smartphone vendors, mobile operators, and end-users who have embraced Android has driven shipment volumes higher. Even today, more vendors are introducing their first Android-powered smartphones to market."

"The share decline of smartphone operating systems not named iOS since Android's introduction isn't a coincidence," said Kevin Restivo, senior research analyst with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker. "The smartphone operating system isn't an isolated product, it's a crucial part of a larger technology ecosystem. Google has a thriving, multi-faceted product portfolio. Many of its competitors, with weaker tie-ins to the mobile OS, do not. This factor and others have led to loss of share for competitors with few exceptions."

Mobile Operating System Highlights

Android, having topped the 100 million unit mark last quarter, reached a new record level in a single quarter. By comparison, Android's total volumes for the quarter were greater than the total number of smartphones shipped in 2007, the year that Android was officially announced. Samsung once again led all vendors in this space, but saw its market share decline as numerous smaller vendors increased their production.

iOS was a distant second place to Android, but was the only other mobile operating system to amass double-digit market share for the quarter. The late quarter launch of the iPhone 5 and lower prices on older models prevented total shipment volumes from slipping to 3Q11 levels. But without a splashy new OS-driven feature like Siri in 2011 and FaceTime in 2010, the iPhone 5 relied on its larger, but not wider, screen and LTE connectivity to drive growth.

BlackBerry's market share continued to sink, falling to just over 4% by the end of the quarter. With the launch of BlackBerry 10 yet to come in 2013, BlackBerry will continue to rely on its aging BlackBerry 7 platform, and equally aging device line-up. Still, demand for BlackBerry and its wildly popular BBM service is strong within multiple key markets worldwide, and the number of subscribers continues to increase.

Symbian posted the largest year-on-year decline of the leading operating systems. Nokia remains the largest vendor still supporting Symbian, along with Japanese vendors Fujitsu, Sharp, and Sony. Each of these vendors is in the midst of transitioning to other operating systems and IDC believes that they will cease shipping Symbian-powered smartphones in 2013. At the same time, the installed base of Symbian users will continue well after the last Symbian smartphone ships.

Windows Phone marked its second anniversary with a total of just 3.6 million units shipped worldwide, fewer than the total number of Symbian units shipped. Even with the backing of multiple smartphone market leaders, Windows Phone has yet to make a significant dent into Android's and iOS's collective market share. That could change in 4Q12, when multiple Windows Phone 8 smartphones will reach the market.

Linux volume declined for the third straight quarter as did its year-over-year growth. Samsung accounted for the majority of shipments once again, but like most other vendors competing with Linux-powered smartphones, most of its attention went towards Android instead. Still, that has not deterred other vendors from experimenting, or at least considering the open-source operating system, as multiple reports of Firefox, Sailfish, and Tizen plan to release new Linux-based experiences in the future.

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7 Comments & Questions

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And anyone who bought Apple shares at $700 must be very worried.

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I got news for IDC. Most people buy a phone, not an operating system. Purchasers of phones cannot exactly buy hardware and then specify what operating system they want. Purchasers may buy a particular phone because of a preference for access to certain apps. But I seriously doubt whether purchasers of phones give a rat's ass about which operating system the phone uses, per se.

So the market share of operating systems is really only relevant to phone manufacturers who make the choice of which operating system to use on their phones. Just like the market share of chips used in phones is only relevant to phone manufacturers who choose which chips to buy for their phones.

So why all this publicity about market share for operating system?

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That may have been true in the past but I doubt it now for a couple of reasons.

1. The phone os is getting more complicated to use,like a computer os, and people don't want to learn how to use a new os

2. I have purchased a few android apps which follow me to a new android phone. I lose all my paid apps if I jump to ios or windows 8.

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I suspect customers go looking for either an iPhone, a Samsung or an Android phone. The non-enthusiasts may not know much about the details of an OS but they know these things:
- iPhone is the best if you can afford it.
- Samsung is the cool alternative to iPhone.
- Any cheap smartphone will get you street cred as long as it has Android on board because Android = low cost + lots of apps.

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from IDC's article:

IDC's Tracker Methodology
IDC's tracker data is developed using a rigorous methodology that includes well-planned and well-coordinated local, regional, and worldwide data cross-checks combined with a proprietary advanced data consolidation and analysis data platform managed by IDC's Worldwide Tracker organization.

Must be good

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For whom?

IDC only I suspect.

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I think iPhone could be in for a bumpy ride from here on in. In the US the phone has been available since 2007 and the last two models have not added significantly to the iPhones traditional strength which is...... usabilty. A larger screen and 4G is neither here nor there to their customer base. What does affect their customer base is the annoyance of updating to iOS6 and losing all their Google service apps like YouTube and Google Maps. Long term this could lose customers, especially if future Android models are perceived as having better Google integration as Apple doesn't get it act together FAST with Maps. The figures will still look good overall for iOS because China is a relatively new and growing market for iOS as are other markets in countries like NZ with less disposable income than US consumers, but in mature markets like the US and UK, something significant needs to come along soon to prevent iOS becoming stale. They are also shooting themselves in the foot by acknowledging Samsung and Google as serious competition in the mobile space, with their global legal challenges receiving bad press by removing customer choice by restricting sales. It's 'one step forward, two steps back' in my opinion. There's no Steve Jobs to pull innovations out of thin air and with the loss of Scott Forstall (SVP in charge of iOS) Apple is at a pivotal point. Fortunately for them, Microsoft, Nokia and various Linux vendors are not in a position to pounce.

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