Gartner’s quarterly report on the mobile phone market are out and unsurprisingly it’s a battle between Apple and Samsung, iOS and Android. Apple and Samsung together control almost half of the smartphone market—46.5%— and while Android controls over 50% of smartphone sales by OS, iOS is expected to narrow the gap in Q4. Really, the smartphone market is like an opera. We have two main players (Apple and Samsung) battling for our hearts and minds, while the rest of the field have their own parts to play.
The headline of Gartner’s press release is a tad confusing—Gartner Says Worldwide Sales of Mobile Phones Declined 3 Percent in Third Quarter of 2012; Smartphone Sales Increased 47 Percent—because on the one hand we’re not seeing the stellar growth in the mobile phone market that we have in the past (the almost everyone who is going to get one has got one paradigm), but on the other hand smartphone growth is up a healthy 47% (last year this time it was 42% year-over-year growth). What’s going on? The people who had “dumb phones” (a regular mobile phone) are moving to smartphones (like my sister who just got a new iPhone from a normal phone). And who are they choosing? Apple or Samsung for the most part:
Smartphones continued to fuel sales of mobile phones worldwide with sales rising to 169.2 million units in the third quarter of 2012. The smartphone market was dominated by Apple and Samsung. “Both vendors together controlled 46.5 percent of smartphone market leaving a handful of vendors fighting over a distant third spot,” said Mr. Gupta.Nokia slipped from No. 3 in the second quarter of 2012 to No. 7 in smartphone sales in the third quarter of 2012. RIM moved to the No. 3 spot with HTC not far behind, at No. 4. “Both HTC and RIM have seen their sales declining in past few quarters, and the challenges might prevent them from holding on to their current rankings in coming quarters,” added Mr. Gupta.
Because there are so many more Android-based devices out there, Android has a huge (and rightfully so on a pure numbers standpoint) lead on iOS (52.5% vs 15.0%) in the sales numbers.
Should we be worried? No, of course not! Really this isn’t about Android vs iOS but really Samsung vs Apple. It’s these tech giant who are doing battle with each other, not the operating systems their devices run. And if the numbers scare you, don’t worry the gap is expected to be narrower by the end of Q4 2012 (because of strong sales of the iPhone 5):
In the smartphone market, Android continued to increase its market share, up 19.9 percentage points in the third quarter of 2012. Although RIM lost market share, it climbed to the No. 3 position as Symbian is nearing the end of its lifecycle. There was also channel destocking in preparation of new device launches for RIM, which resulted into 8.9 million sales to end users in the third quarter of 2012. With the launch of iPhone 5, Gartner analysts expect iOS share will grow strongly in the fourth quarter of 2012 because users held on to their replacements in many markets ahead of the iPhone 5 wider roll out. Windows Phone’s share weakened year-on-year as the Windows Phone 8 launch dampened demand of Windows Phone 7 devices.
What Gartner didn’t touch on, per se, is how RIM is catching up with iOS. As much as I’m a proud Canadian and RIM is one of our tech darlings, we all know RIM is on the ropes. However, if RIM has a couple strong quarters (especially if large corporate or government clients buy new handsets) Blackberry OS could become the second or a much stronger third OS in the mobile world.
The dark horse, is Microsoft. We’ll have to see how the Windows Phone 8 numbers play out over the next few quarters to understand how Apple and Samsung are going to fair in the market.
That’s what it looks like as we are winding up 2012. Assuming the world doesn’t end next month, 2013 is shaping up to be an interesting year as Apple and Samsung battle each other in the stores and the courts for dominance of the smartphone and tablet world.
Android and iOS? Those are the pivotal minor players in this operatic spectacle. We (and fans of Apple) are the lead soprano in the opera, Apple is the tenor (the tenor in opera is always the love interest and going for the girl) and Samsung the baritone (it’s said that all operas are about a soprano falling in love with a tenor and a baritone trying to muck it up). Everyone else are supporting players who just and drama and interest to the whole thing.
Opera photo by ClubTransatlântico via Flickr.