When news broke that Android had blown past the iPhone in smartphone market share in the U.S.–and, worse, that the iPhone’s share was dead in the water–Apple fans pitched a fit.Apple’s iOS platform runs on more than just smartphones, they observed. So if you’re trying to get a fix on platform market share, as opposed to device market share, you need to include iPod touches (essentially, phone-less iPhones) and iPads.
Well, we ran the numbers globally for iPhones + iPod touches, and the message was the same: Apple’s share actually dropped year over year.
But the news is better in the US if you include iPads in addition to iPod touches. (We think of the iPad as an essentially different device and platform than iPhones and iPads, but it does run the same OS. So there’s certainly some merit in including iPads in the calculation).
Comscore just published a snapshot of the average market share of mobile iOS–iPads, iPhones, and iPod touches–compared to Android in the US for the three months through February. iOS still holds a solid lead:
Digging into the numbers, though, it’s clear that Comscore’s earlier message is also true–that the iPhone is losing steam in the cell-phone market.
Comscore’s most recent numbers* suggest that the US share breakdown by device is approximately as follows:
- 16 million iPhones
- 15 million iPod touches
- 7 million iPads
Android, meanwhile, is running on 24 million phones.
Given that Apple’s iPad will likely own the tablet market for the next couple of years, Apple will likely maintain its lead in the overall platform market for a while.
But the speed with which Android has blasted past Apple in smartphones should serve as a wake-up call for anyone banking on Apple maintaining its lead in tablets, as well as its overall lead in mobile platform share. And that, in turn, should bring back some bad memories.
Apple is fighting the same war it fought and lost in the 1990s: Trying to sell integrated hardware and software devices with a closed platform against competitors who are spraying a ubiquitous “open” platform across multiple hardware devices. As we’ve discussed here, Apple has several things going for it that it didn’t in the 1990s, including price (Apple’s products are priced at or below the competition), the app store, and the fact that utility of mobile devices is less dependent on third-party apps than the PC market is (all phones have a phone, email, contacts, and so forth).
But the underlying war and strategy is still the same. And even with its current lead, Apple runs the risk of becoming marginalized as a niche “premium” player while the developer community moves on to Android.
* To estimate these numbers, we’re extrapolating from Comscore’s observations that there are slightly more iPhones than iPod touches and that there are about twice as many of both as iPads.
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