Who's winning the market share battle on the U.S. smartphone front? Although not all reports are created equal, Android is consistently on top. But one analyst said that ranking doesn't make much difference in the grand scheme of mobile devices.
According to market research firm Kantar, Android continued to increase its share of smartphones sold over the last year for the three-month period ending in February, with Sprint and Samsung helping fuel that increase.
"Last month we saw that Android's increases were thanks to a large increase in Samsung sales within Sprint," said Kantar Worldpanel ComTech analyst Mary-Ann Parlato. "This month, while the increases for Samsung are less pronounced, we're still seeing an increase in uptake of the brand, which is now impacting on Sprint's overall share in smartphone sales."
iOS Very Close to Android
With 51.2 percent of smartphone sales, Android posted 5.8 percent growth compared with the same period last year. Meanwhile, iOS remains in second place with 43.5 percent of smartphone sales, down for a consecutive period, by 3.5 percent versus last year. Windows continued to make gains, up to 4.1 percent of smartphone sales.
Kantar reports that it was thanks to Samsung's price drop at the back end of 2012 that led various smartphone and feature phone users to upgrade to a Samsung device.
"Of those who changed their phone over the last year to a Samsung smartphone, 19 percent had previously owned a Samsung feature phone, 15 percent owned a HTC smartphone, 14 percent owned an LG feature phone, 10 percent owned a Samsung smartphone and 9 percent owned a BlackBerry," Parlato said. "It's apparent that Samsung is successful at capturing users from across the competitor set and not just gaining from their own loyalists, albeit loyalty towards Samsung has also grown."
What Does It Matter?
We asked Michael Disabato, managing vice president of Network and Telecom at Gartner, for his take on the latest numbers. He sees it this way: Since there is only one iOS manufacturer and many Android manufacturers, he doesn't care who's got market share. When look at market share by device type, he told us, that's where it starts to get interesting.
"iPads are way ahead of anything Android's got and they are blowing Microsoft Surface tablets out of the water," Disabato said. "When it comes to smartphones, you've got five or six major manufacturers competing against Apple. Of course Android is going to have better market share."
Although he's an iPhone user, Disabato said he likes Android and is looking at a Nokia 920 on the Windows Phone side. He called the Nokia 920 a "really cool Windows phone." However, he noted, in order to take the leap from iOS to Windows Phone or Android, he would first need to find apps that match the equivalent functionality of his iPad. Those apps may not exchange with the iPad and may or may not exchange data with the Mac.
"I am not looking at the device based on what's better technology. I am looking at the device from the top down and what's better for the ecosystem I am running," Disabato said. "And whether or not they want to admit it, that's what consumers are doing. So the market share numbers don't matter."