Things are worse for Android than they first appear

Android and iOS continue to dominate the worldwide smartphone market with a combined share of 96.3%, according to new figures from the International Data Corporation (IDC).

The data shows that the smartphone market is still a duopoly, 9to5Mac points out. Competitors like Windows Phone and BlackBerry barely stand a chance.

But it also highlights the success of Apple over Android. Runaway sales of Apple’s iPhone 6 and 6 Plus helped iOS grow significantly faster than Android, with the latter suffering a fall in market share in the fourth quarter of 2014.

iOS enjoyed a year-on-year change of 46.1% between Q4 of 2013 and 2014, compared to Android’s 26.6%. This led to an Android drop-off in market share in the last quarter, from 78.2% a year ago to 76.6% in 2014. iOS, in contrast, rose from 17.5% to 19.7%.

Yes, Android’s market share over 2014 as a whole rose from 78.7% to 81.5%. But as previous data from ABI Research showed, in Q4 of 2014, the number of smartphones sold with the OS actually dropped for the first time ever. With the average price of Android handsets falling, and with the next billion people coming online in emerging markets, this should not happen.

It’s important to note that IDC includes Xiaomi, a Chinese smartphone company, in Android’s figures. While it’s true that Xiaomi devices run Android, they run a “forked” version outside of Google’s control, and without access to the Google Play Store. Xiaomi and other forked versions of Android sold 85 million units in Q4 of 2014 (compared to 205.56 million “normal” Android).

Xiaomi recently overtook Samsung — which sells standard Android smartphones — as the biggest smartphone seller in China, a market of growing importance. And there’s investment pouring into the forked Android sphere. Last month, CyanoGen raised $US100 million promising to “take Android away from Google.” As these forks grow in popularity, Google will suffer. A growth in headline market share for Android won’t be much consolation.

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