Apple Executives Apparently Think The Data Used To Measure Smartphone Market Share Is Garbage

Tim Cook iPhone 6APApple CEO Tim Cook in an Apple Store

Since Apple started selling the iPhone, things have been pretty great for the company.

The stock is at $US112 today. When Apple announced the phone in 2007, the stock was at $US12 (adjusted for stock splits).

Apple’s revenue was $US183 billion in fiscal 2014. Of that, $US102 billion came from the iPhone. In fiscal 2007, revenue was $US24 billion. 

But there’s been one small nagging data point that’s not so great for Apple — smartphone market share. 

Apple has 11.7% of the smartphone market, according to IDC. Android has 84.4%. 

IDC: Smartphone OS Market Share 2013, 2012, and 2011 Chart

Market share doesn’t matter, for the most part. Apple’s iPhone sales have continued to grow, even as it lost market share. 

The only way that market share matters is if developers use it as guide post for their decisions. If you’re making software, you want as many people as possible exposed to your software. To do that, you would have to develop for Android, which has more users.

If developers focused on Android, then Apple’s iPhone software, iOS, would become second-class. It would have weaker apps. As a weaker platform, it would be less attractive, and then the iPhone business would collapse.

But, that hasn’t happened. In part, it’s because Apple has more valuable users. 

During the Black Friday shopping period, Adobe reported, “iOS users drove four times as much mobile sales revenue as Android users, 79 and 21 per cent respectively.”

In general, iPhone users are more engaged with apps, and more willing to pay for apps.

As a result, developers have not bailed. They have done the opposite. They’re building for iOS first, and Android second, despite the market share disparity. 


This market share thing remains a thorn in Apple’s side. People just don’t think the iPhone business can continue to succeed if its market share remains stalled. They view it as a long-term threat, despite Apple’s continued iPhone sales growth.

It seems like the only way for Apple to fix this market share “problem” is to lower prices to sell more phones, but that would put pressure on Apple’s profits, which would hurt its stock. So, to these people, Apple is stuck between a rock and a hard place. 

Apple is not too thrilled with all of this debate. It hates that people fixate on its one weak point when so much else is going well. 

And, apparently, Apple executives think the data people are using for market share is junk. 

Buried in a Walt Mossberg column on Apple and Google is this tiny nugget, with our emphasis added: “In my conversations with Apple executives, they vehemently insist that market share isn’t — and won’t be — their goal, and even go so far as to say that most public market-share numbers are somehow off the mark, though they decline to explain how.”

That’s all Mossberg says. There is nothing further on it. 

But it would make sense for Apple to question the numbers. Apple is the only company that openly reports its smartphone sales. Every other company keeps that information private, forcing companies like IDC and Gartner to use their own imperfect methods to track smartphone shipments.

Shipments do not equal sales through to consumers. Just ask Samsung, which has a built up inventory of the Galaxy S5. Shipments to consumers don’t necessarily mean usage.

Unfortunately for Apple, there’s not much it can do. If it has evidence the numbers are wrong then it can present that data. But that gets complicated, especially since this is a relatively minor issue in the big picture. Apple tries to counterprogram this narrative when it talks about web usage, which shows Android and iOS even at this point.

The best thing for Apple to do, though, is to keep doing what it’s been doing. It doesn’t get too hung up on market share data. It just sells expensive phones to millions of people. That leads to developers making great apps, and the share price soaring.

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