When Androids Growth Stalls, Will Apple or Microsoft Take Their Customers?

30 December, 2011 10:19PM · 4 minute read

Note to readers: The following analysis has no bearing on profitability which can be argued has nothing to do with market share and it is not the purpose of this article to suggest that any platform is winning any sort of race or competition.

Today ComScore released US smartphone user data with a sample size of 30,000 users, a 3 month rolling average of phone brands and operating systems. Google’s Android operating system continues its roll onward picking up a respectable 1.2M unit growth however the achievement is put into more perspective when considering previous seven months, of October, September, August and July (go back further if you like at the ComScore website) as tabulated below, also compared with iOS figures:

ComScore Android and iOS Growth Figures (US Only)

Month User Base (M) And-roid % And-roid Qty (M) And-roid Gro-wth % And-roid Gro-wth (M) iOS % iOS Qty (M) iOS Gro-wth % iOS Gro-wth (M)
Apr 74.6 36.4 27.2 26 19.4
May 76.8 38.1 29.3 7.8 2.1 26.6 20.4 5.3 1.0
Jun 78.5 40.2 31.6 7.8 2.3 26.6 20.9 2.2 0.5
Jul 82.2 41.8 34.4 8.9 2.8 27.1 22.3 6.7 1.4
Aug 84.5 43.8 37.0 7.7 2.7 27.3 23.1 3.6 0.8
Sep 87.4 44.8 39.2 5.8 2.1 27.4 23.9 3.8 0.9
Oct 90 46.3 41.7 6.4 2.5 28.1 25.3 5.6 1.3
Nov 91.4 46.9 42.9 2.9 1.2 28.7 26.2 3.7 0.9

The number of users switching from non-smartphones continues to increase ¬†with a notable spike to 3.7M between June and July most likely due to contract renewals, but ignoring this outlier averaging roughly 2.2M subscribers per month. Since smartphone users are changing between platforms as well as between non-smart and smartphones it’s easier to examine the individual growths. For iOS with its regular release schedules it’s more clear with small spikes in growth occurring in July (2-Year contract renewal for iPhone 3GS but more meaningfully the expected release of the iPhone 4S/5) and October (Actual release of iPhone 4S). Androids growth is far less clear with so many different devices released at different times making it difficult to trace the cause of any spikes, however the Millions growth for Android grew June through August but has begun to taper off going into November.

Whilst these figures are fascinating to try and interpret I think it’s inevitable that Android and iOS market share growth at competitors expenses will stall. With Android outpacing iOSs growth nearly two to one in all months shown except November, Android will hit that wall first. The question is will Android users having had a taste of what smartphones can offer, then switch to iOS with its stability and reliability and more consistent user experience? On the other hand will users brought into the smartphone market by Apple on iOS tire of the long list of things that Apple will not let them do and move across to the more configurable Android platform? The wildcard of late is Windows Phone 7 which is not explicitly shown in the ComScore data (WP7 and Windows Mobile 6.5 and below are grouped together under Microsoft) and how many customers it will attract with its innovative approach to grouping apps into hubs for quicker access to personal data?

Apple disrupted the market and rocketed into first place in the smartphone market, but Android took the lead in 2010 and is still well ahead with WP7 trailing both platforms as Nokia/Symbian and RIM slide into obscurity. The question is whether Google/Android can keep its user base happy enough to stick with Android long term. If it can the Apple will find getting first place back in the market share race to be extremely difficult. We are still in the middle of the marathon for this generation of platforms and there is still a great deal of evolution ahead on all of these platforms.

One thing is for certain, the market growth will stall (saturate) and when it becomes the three major modern platforms vying for top position, the true battle for first place will begin.