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Smartphone Platform Market Share, the Winners and Losers


News by Luke Jones on Saturday November 01, 2014.

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The latest round of mobile platform market share numbers are in as Strategy Analytics has compiled the statistics for the three month period ending September 30th. The results show that Android is now utterly dominating the market, and Google software has been described as unstoppable by the data compilers. However, what do these market numbers mean for the three main platforms, Android, iOS, and Windows Phone?

First, it is probably better to tackle the raw numbers. Through the three month third quarter, over 8 from every 10 smartphones activated around the world were Android, giving the platform an enormous 84% market share. Not since the days of Windows bursting the PC wars and becoming the de facto computing operating system have we seen such dominance in tech. As for Apple, iOS lost market share (but Apple sold more devices) from 13.4% last year to 12.3% this year, while Windows Phone also declined to just 3.3% of the market. Overall, and proving that the mobile boom is still going, 320.4 million smartphones were sold through the quarter, a big rise from the 252.9 million shifted through the same period in 2013.

Android's leadership of the global smartphone market looks unbeatable at the moment," said Neil Mawston, Executive Director at Strategy Analytics. "Its low-cost services and user-friendly software remain attractive to hardware makers, operators and consumers worldwide. However, challenges are emerging for Google. The Android platform is getting overcrowded with hundreds of hardware brands, Android smartphone prices are falling worldwide, and few Android device vendors make profits.

Android

Android's hold on the market is unprecedented and the growth the platform has enjoyed has been astronomical. For the get go, the software landed and sought to be different to Apple's model, Android was open and free, in many ways Google wanted it to be for everyone. And that's what has happened, although that huge market share does mask some issues. Chief among them is the fragmentation of the platform, with the two year old Jelly Bean still the most widely used version. There is also a problem with forked Android devices, those who do not use Google's services and so are not included by the company. While Android comfortably outstrips every other OS in terms of sales, forked devices to compile a percentage of those sales, and Google sees little to no return on them. However, despite any issues, it is hard to look past the numbers and not be impressed.

iOS

Just one look at Apple's number show that the company is something of a market anomaly. Sales up sharply, but market share down sharply. For Cupertino it is all about profit and brand awareness, while market share is important for bragging rights, it actually has littler bearing on the company's model. If iOS accounted for 1% of the market, but the iPhone was still the most popular device with 40 million unit sales, then Apple's income would be the same. In fact, the company may even argue that in real terms unit for unit, its market share has not decreased, and the percentile jump for Android is because more handsets were released from the platform.

However, while the sale is the most important thing for Apple, a decreased market share does present potential problems. At the moment, a vast majority of developers build apps with iOS in mind and then port them for Android later. Right now, with the iPhone such a dominant device that arguably makes sense, follow the money so to speak. However, if Android keeps chewing up market space then those developers may one day start seeing Android as the more important platform. We are not there yet, but who know in the future.

Windows Phone

While both Apple and Google will feel relatively happy and have little to complain about, Microsoft's Windows Platform is on rocky ground. The OS does not have huge market share like Android, or the high margin success of iOS, while it is still seen as an outsider. Losing market share is very bad news for a platform that has grown through previous quarters. 2014 has been a slow year for Windows Phone and in almost every key market it has lost market share to Android.

Microsoft may be doing okay from a hardware perspective because most of the 10.3 million Windows devices sold through the period are the company?s own. However, plenty has to change with the software and the strategy if Redmond is going to garner more users.

For example, the OS still feels unfinished compared to the mature iOS and Android rivals. The day is starting to pass where we can excuse this because Windows Phone is a new platform, it has been with us a few years now and should feel more rounded. It has a few plus points of course, but there are still too many negatives so Microsoft needs another big update in the near future to put things right.

There is also a problem with device strategy. Nokia grew the Windows Phone platform with mid-range and budget handsets, allowing the OS to enjoy growth in emerging markets. Microsoft's acquisition of Nokia has led to the same strategy being employed. Yes, consolidating growth in new markets is wise, but the platform is screaming out for high end choice. Nokia was limited at the flagship level, but Windows now supports high spec'd devices, just look at the HTC One M8 for Windows.

HTC's device is a good start, but Microsoft needs to start padding out its high end range, especially with a full on flagship. Users in mature markets need that wow device if they are going to ditch Android or iOS, and right now they do not have it.

 
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About the author

Luke Jones
Luke Jones is the Managing Editor at MobileBurn.com and is the person you need to speak to about the content on the site. Luke studied creative writing at degree level before carving out a reputation as a freelance tech writer. He settled here at MobileBurn, where he reviews devices and contributes to the news, as well as overseeing the site's content and direction.

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