Android breaks 80% milestone in OS market share

Google platform tops 210m units in Q3; Apple loses share: IDC
Android-based smartphones accounted for 81% of all unit shipments in the third quarter of this year. (Getty Images)
Android-based smartphones accounted for 81% of all unit shipments in the third quarter of this year. (Getty Images)

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Google’s Android OS accounted for 81% of all smartphone shipments in the third quarter of this year, with a total base of 211.6m units shipped, marking the first time that Android topped 80% in its short history, according to the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker.

Despite high saturation rates in a number of mature markets, the overall smartphone space grew 39.9%, year on year, in Q3.

Also reaching a milestone was Microsoft's Windows Phone, which grew an amazing 156.0% year on year. IDC did point out that Windows Phone volumes started from a small base of 3.7m units a year ago and overall market share remains less than five percent, but a massive push from Microsoft and its partner Nokia, whose devices unit will soon be in Microsoft’s hands, helped drive the platform into multiple tiers and price points.

“Android and Windows Phone continued to make significant strides in the third quarter,” said Ramon Llamas, research manager with IDC's Mobile Phone team.

“Despite their differences in market share, they both have one important factor behind their success: price. 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.”

Smartphone average selling prices (ASPs) have continued to decline as the appetite for more affordable devices grows. ASPs were down 12.5% in Q3, with an average price of $317. At the same time, the market has seen a large influx of large-screen smartphones (5- to 6.9-inch screens), also known as phablets. Large-screen devices generally come with a higher selling price than smaller screen devices, due to the need for more powerful and expensive components. Phablet ASPs in Q3 were notably higher than the market average at $443, but the Q3 ASP was down 22.8% from the $573 phablet ASP in Q3.

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"Almost all successful Android vendors have added one or more 5- to 7-inch phablets to their product portfolios," said Ryan Reith, programme 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 Q3, phablet shipments accounted for 21% of the smartphone market, up from just 3% 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.”

OS highlights

Android pushed past 80% market share for the first time in the third quarter, a testament to its broad and deep list of vendors, including four of the top five vendors worldwide. While Android, as a whole, moved forward, the vast majority of its vendors still struggle to find meaningful market share. Samsung accounted for 39.9% 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%.

Apple’s iOS, despite seeing its total volumes increase and reaching new record third-quarter figures, saw its market share decline during Q3, most likely due to soft demand in the weeks leading up to the launch of iOS 7 smartphones. But if the 9m units sold during the last week of September is any indication of future adoption, iOS stands to reap another record quarter in terms of volumes, market share, and year-on-year growth.

Windows Phone posted the largest year-on-year growth worldwide of any of the leading operating systems, a result primarily driven by the support of Nokia. By itself, Nokia accounted for 93.2% of all the Windows Phone-powered smartphones shipped during the quarter, marking a new milestone in the company's short history on the Microsoft platform. Participation from other vendors, meanwhile, still seemed mixed, with more vendors participating from a year ago, but volumes still far behind Nokia's own.

BlackBerry recorded the largest year-on-year decline among the leading operating systems during Q3. 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 $1bn, 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.

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