It’s still a two-horse race in the U.S. smartphone market. According to the latest comScore data, Android and iOS combined for a 90 per cent market share at year-end 2012, up from 77 per cent a year prior.
Android actually took a small dive, falling 0.4 percentage points from November. This shouldn’t be cause for alarm. Its market share is still up almost 1 percentage point from September.
iOS was the big winner, notching a 1.3 percentage point gain from November to December alone, on the strength of iPhone 5 sales.
Microsoft’s Windows Phone, meanwhile, actually shed market share in the fourth quarter, despite the release of the platform’s latest iteration in October. It is difficult to imagine a strong future for Windows Phone if it is unable to gain a foothold in the world’s second-largest smartphone market (China being the first).
Note that comScore’s numbers reflect installed base, not shipments. Therefore, the release of the iPhone 5 doesn’t wouldn’t impact market share numbers if the majority of purchasers were already iPhone owners.
iPhone’s 1.3 percentage point gain, then, had to be made up of first-time smartphone buyers and converts from other platforms.
It is a significant gain, but not likely to tip the scales against Android in the near future. First, smartphone penetration is slowing in the U.S., so the pool of first-time buyers is dwindling. Second, platform operators work hard to dissuade users from changing platforms by making “switching costs” intolerable (for example, iOS users who have uploaded many files to iCloud aren’t likely to leave iOS). Finally, iOS historically gets its largest pop in the first quarter after a new iPhone release, as was the case in the last three months of 2012. It’s unlikely Apple can innovate rapidly enough to sustain market share growth through device releases.
U.S. smartphone penetration, by the way, currently stands at 54 per cent, up from 42 per cent a year ago. (It passed the 50 per cent mark in September 2012, according to comScore.)
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