iPhone Sales Are Big, But Don't Expect iOS Market Share To Surge

The iPhone is blowing out sales in the U.S., but that doesn’t necessarily translate to huge market share gains globally.

According to Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, Apple’s iOS accounted 53 per cent of sales for the 12 weeks ending November 25, up from 36 per cent in the same period a year prior. Android actually lost share, shedding 5 percentage points compared to its share in the same 12 weeks of 2011.

In the five largest European markets—France, Great Britain, Germany, Italy, and Spain— iOS notched a combined 3 percentage point gain, climbing to 25 per cent of sales. Android was up 9 percentage points, accounting for 61 per cent of shipments.

Kantar looks at the platform share of smartphone sales on a rolling twelve week basis. The November 2012 numbers, for example, reflect the twelve weeks ending November 25.

Despite the strong iOS sales in established markets, it may not lead to a huge jump in installed base market share. If many of the people buying an iPhone 5 in the U.S. already own iPhones, it won’t move the dial very much. Given that the last major upgrade to the iPhone was more than two years ago— the iPhone 4 was released in June 2010— it is plausible that many of those sales are explained by pent-up demand.

While it is important for Apple to maintain a strong position in these countries, these sales are no longer driving growth in the global smartphone market because penetration in these markets is beginning to slow. Instead, the big gains will come from countries like Brazil and China— where the iPhone 5 was not yet available at the end of November.

In China’s cities, iOS accounted for 19 per cent of shipments. iPhones should eventually get a boost from the release of the iPhone 5 last month, but Apple is nonetheless getting swamped by Android in the world’s largest smartphone market by volume and installed base.

In Brazil, another potentially huge market, iOS is barely a blip, accounting for a scant 2 per cent of shipments. Android, on the other hand, is gobbling up market share from Nokia’s antiquated Symbian platform, which will be completely out of the picture soon.

Paltry shipments for Apple in countries like China and Brazil is helping to fuel all the talk behind the potential release of a cheaper iPhone.

(For more information on the Brazilian and Chinese markets, read our report on the mobile BRICs.)

Below are the charts for the eight countries analysed by Kantar, with their smartphone market share by platform for November 2011 and November 2012:

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