When Google set out to build an open-source mobile operating system, the company probably didn’t have market domination in mind. Or maybe it did. Either way, Android is dominating the market.
According to market research firm IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, Android reached a new milestone in the third quarter of 2013. A total of 211.6 million smartphone units shipped during the quarter. Android accounted for 81 percent of all smartphone shipments, its highest-ever market share.
Microsoft Windows Phone also reached a milestone, growing 156 percent year-over-year. That number seems more impressive than it is, though, considering Microsoft started off with just 3.7 million units a year ago. Overall market share is still below 5 percent. Despite high saturation rates in a number of mature markets, the overall smartphone space grew 39.9 percent year-over-year in the third quarter.
"Android and Windows Phone continued to make significant strides in the third quarter. Despite their differences in market share, they both have one important factor behind their success: price," said Ramon Llamas, a research manager with IDC's mobile phone team. "Both platforms have a selection of devices available at prices low enough to be affordable to the mass market, and it is the mass market that is driving the entire market forward."
Apple Market Share Declining
Samsung accounted for 39.9 percent of all Android shipments for the quarter, while the rest of the vendors either saw single-digit market share or, in the case of the majority of vendors, market share of less than 1 percent. Android seemed to gain at Apple’s expense.
Despite seeing its total volumes increase and reaching new record third-quarter volumes, Apple saw its market share decline during the third quarter. IDC said this is most likely due to soft demand in the weeks leading up to the launch of iOS 7 smartphones. Still, if the 9 million units sold during the last week of September is any indication of future adoption, IDC predicted iOS stands to reap another record quarter in terms of volumes, market share, and year-over-year growth.
For its part, BlackBerry recorded the largest year-over-year decline among the leading operating systems during the third quarter. Underpinning its results was softer demand for its new BB10 operating system and continued demand for its older BB7 within emerging markets. Now, with a new CEO in place and an infusion of $1 billion, IDC said what remains to be seen is how and when the beleaguered operating system will be able to change course in the face of mounting pressure from Android, iOS, and Windows Phone.
A Shakeout Is Coming
We asked Michael Disabato, a managing vice president of Networks and Telecom at Gartner, for his take on the numbers. He told us the market will soon see a shakeout that will change the numbers game.
“The day is coming when people have already tried iOS and they don’t like it or already tried Android and they don’t like it -- and they are going to switch for good,” Disabato said. “Consumers are going to end up where they want to be within the next year or so and you are not going to see these numbers jumping around. There’s too much investment in applications.”
Speaking of investments, smartphone average selling prices (ASPs) has continued to decline as the appetite for more affordable devices grows. ASPs were down 12.5 percent in the third quarter, accounting for an average price of $317. At the same time, the market has seen a huge influx of large-screen smartphones, also known as phablets.
Large-screen devices generally come with higher selling prices than smaller screen devices, due to the need for more powerful and expensive components. Phablet ASPs in the third quarter were notably higher than the market average at $443, IDC reported. However, the third quarter ASP was down 22.8 percent from the $573 phablet ASP in the year-ago period.
"Almost all successful Android vendors have added one or more 5-inch to 7-inch phablets to their product portfolios," said Ryan Reith, a program director with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker. "And Nokia’s recent announcement of the Lumia 1320 and 1520 put them in the category as well. In the third quarter of 2013, phablet shipments accounted for 21 percent of the smartphone market, up from just 3 percent a year ago. We believe the absence of a large-screen device may have contributed to Apple's inability to grow share in the third quarter."