Android Hoards 84 Percent Smartphone OS Market Share

young woman speaking into a smartphone

Google’s Android stole share from all of its major mobile OS rivals over the past year to achieve a whopping smartphone market dominance of roughly 84 percent in the third quarter of 2014, according to a new Strategy Analytics report.

Apple’s iOS, which weighed in with about 12 percent, lost more than a point of share to Android since the same quarter a year ago as a result of its limited presence at the lower end of the smartphone market, the report found.

Microsoft’s Windows Phone also lost about a point over the past year — falling to 3 percent in this latest quarter — while BlackBerry’s global smartphone share remained flat at roughly 1 percent.

‘Looks Unbeatable’

BlackBerry’s lackluster range of BB10 devices was largely to blame for its failure to grow, Strategy Analytics suggested, while Microsoft’s woes stemmed at least in part from its continuing struggles in China and Japan.

Global smartphone shipments grew 27 percent over the past year — from 252.9 million units in Q3 2013 to 320.4 million in Q3 2014, according to the report — with much of that growth driven by robust demand in emerging markets such as Asia, Middle East and Africa.

“Android’s leadership of the global smartphone market looks unbeatable at the moment,” said Neil Mawston, Strategy Analytics’ executive director of wireless device strategies. “Its low-cost services and user-friendly software remain attractive to hardware makers, operators and consumers worldwide.”

The Profitability Problem

Google does face some emerging challenges, however, Mawston noted.

Namely, “the Android platform is getting overcrowded with hundreds of hardware brands, Android smartphone prices are falling worldwide, and few Android device vendors make profits,” he said.

In fact, although it does represent an increase of more than two points since the third quarter of last year, Android’s market share this quarter is actually down a point since its record level of 85 percent in the second quarter of this year.

That is fueling speculation that the mobile platform is peaking, with little further growth possible.

90 Percent or Bust?

“I don’t agree,” Nick Spencer, a senior practice director with ABI Research, told LinuxInsider.

“While Apple is growing still, it is not growing as fast as Android,” he explained. “Almost all the growth in the smartphone market is sub-$200, and Android completely dominates this price tier. Apple has no offering at all, and Firefox is struggling for traction, as are Windows Phone and BlackBerry 10.”

All in all, if Android’s market share were to stay the same, even as smartphone shipments continue growing, “you are effectively saying that all prices are growing evenly, or all operating systems are growing evenly, which is clearly not true,” added Spencer.

That said, it is true that “at 84 percent market share, there isn’t that far you can go,” he admitted, “but we expect Android to get near 90 percent.”

Room to Grow

Though the smartphone OS market does include numerous competitors, it’s essentially a two-horse race at the moment between Android and iOS, Tuong Huy Nguyen, a principal research analyst for Gartner, told LinuxInsider.

“You can say the market share has peaked, but there’s still room to grow in terms of volume,” Nguyen suggested.

Emerging markets, for example, present considerable opportunity, he said, as do other types of devices such as wearables, TVs and other connected devices.

So, the notion that Android has peaked “makes a great headline,” he concluded, “but you need to put it in perspective and look at all the opportunities that still exist.”

Indeed, “we’re seeing Google moving into new categories,” Ross Rubin, principal analyst at Reticle Research, told LinuxInsider.

“So even as smartphone penetration starts to saturate,” he pointed out, “there’s still many hardware devices that will be running Android in the future.”

Katherine Noyes has been reporting on business and technology for decades. You can find her on Twitter and Google+.

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