Android is Losing Momentum

I wrote a column earlier this year titled “2012: The Year Google Fixes Android or Loses the War.” In that column I laid out a number of issues facing Android as well as the business reasons why many problems existed. When we think about Android we need to remember that Google is an advertising company and that is how they think. With that in mind Google’s platform decisions will be made with that agenda. This point needs to be clear, Google is an advertising company, Apple is an experience company.

Recently as well ZDNet writer Jason Perlow wrote an interesting article on why he is “sick to death of Android.” In fact if you survey the media sentiment toward Android over the past six months you will see that much of the excitement is gone and it has moved to frustration. With these observations in mind it comes as no surprise that recent Nielsen data gives evidence of Android’s momentum slowdown and what I believe will be inevitable market share decline.

Over the past six month’s iOS has closed the gap in smart phone platform share. Look at this data from Nielsen released about smart phone acquirers for the October 2011-December 2011 time frame. Then look at the data this morning Nielsen released and what you will see is that iOS closed the gap on Android platform share with buyers over the past 6 month’s with recent purchasers. In fact if you look back over the past 9 months you will see the momentum change. Since I was interested in this data I created a graph here using Nielsens data of smart phone buyers over the past 9 months.

Prior to June of 2011 Android was on an upswing then as you can see the months after with recent smart phone purchasers momentum has shifted. I anticipate that this trend of Android’s decline and momentum loss will continue unless Google shows me something to convince me otherwise. If developer interest, OEM support, market interest, etc, all continue to decline as it is right now then it would not surprise me that by the end of 2013 Android will no longer be the dominant OS platform in smart phones–at least in mature markets. This is of course contrary to much of the data and forecasts put out by my analyst colleagues but I believe momentum shift is happening just not in the same direction they do.

This actually opens the door for Windows Phone in my opinion. AT&T has been very vocal about being aggressive with the Nokia Lumia 900. Sascha Segan wrote a great article yesterday titled “Windows Phone Smokes Android, But Can’t Sell” . He highlights Windows Phone and how high it ranks in net promoter scores. We track net promoter scores closely because it represents user sentiment and specifically about their potential to recommend. Interestingly net promoter scores with the Nokia Lumia devices are very high.

The momentum downswing of Android and the inevitable decline of inventory as more OEMs support Windows Phone as well is why I agree with my colleagues at IDC that there is a platform shift taking place. However I believe iOS for sure and potentially Windows Phone are the longer term winners, unless Google can make some market moves to convince me otherwise.

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Ben Bajarin

Ben Bajarin is a Principal Analyst and the head of primary research at Creative Strategies, Inc - An industry analysis, market intelligence and research firm located in Silicon Valley. His primary focus is consumer technology and market trend research and he is responsible for studying over 30 countries. Full Bio

851 thoughts on “Android is Losing Momentum”

  1. On an optimistic note, this might be the silence before the storm. Impending release of quad core phones might have reduced android sales in the last few months

    1. Oh goodie, two more cores to suck Android’s battery up even faster. Battery longevity means way more to your typical user than a phone’s CPU processing power, especially when the great games that use it tend to be iOS-first endeavors anyway and are thus written to the iPhone’s hardware capabilities.

    2. I have to agree with Jim, it is not about Ghz or Cores, it’s about user experience. Don’t get me wrong, part of user experience is the speed and ability of the phone but to this point we have seen that the custom chips that Apple uses (although spec wise seem under powered) seem to deliver a faster more fluid user experience and I have heard the same thing about Windows Phone.

      I’m just afraid that the ship has already sailed on windows phone, and this push is too little too late.

  2. well, BB, yes and no. you’re right about Android in the markets of the developed world, but wrong globally when you include the huge markets of the developing world. Android is becoming the ultra cheap/throwaway smartphone OS. OEM’s and telcos in the developing world we never hear of in the US are adapting it, even “forking” it, to sell in the many tens of millions in their local markets. like China and India of course, but all throughout Asia, Africa, and Latin America. as a result, in its many versions, Android may well power a billion phones in a few years. and millions of cheap tablets too.

    but of course that will be an almost meaningless statistic. almost none of those developing world customers will be using Google anything. or buying on Amazon. probably not even using Facebook. instead they will opt for “local” culturally-relevant alternatives, like Baidu in China, some of which will become huge in their own right as a result.

    1. Yes I agree. I did quickly mention in the column that the decline I predict is in mature markets. You correctly point out the lower end emerging markets part of the world like China, India, etc. And you are correct in the those versions benefit Google in no way. In fact the version in China is so customized and stripped of value Google gets nothing from it, similar to Amazon’s fork.

      Plus I am sure you saw the data come out today about how little Google makes on Android vs iPhone in terms of revenue. Best way for Apple to hurt Google is to not let their search on the iPhone. That will most likely happen in the not too distant future.

      1. thanks. yes, Apple will certainly enable alternative search services in global markets, starting with Baidu. but here, it is hard to imagine Apple dropping Goolge for Bing/Yahoo. you think?

        people keep missing the crucial fact that the majority of Apple’s revenues are already from international sales, and that % keeps growing.

        1. I think Apple knows where they can hurt Google most should they want to do it. I can see them abstracting the search layer from the UI and control the experience themselves. Perhaps they buy a search startup or even Yahoo.

          Many ways this can play out.

          1. Definitely food for thought. Buying Yahoo, now that idea I can’t see, but . . .

            Steve seemed to have problems meditating away beefs and hurts but I don’t know about calm Tim. I, for one, would dance in the streets (not a pretty sight says wife) to see Google hung out to dry by Apple. I don’t usually like to think mean, but Google, nearer the back of the Soup Line!, nice.

  3. I suspect you are correct Ben. Apple is acknowledged for its quality of build, ecosystem and products that seem a step ahead of the game. What it doesn’t get credit for, yet, which may be the reason you are the lone voice in this regard, is that Apple products are becoming so competitively priced. Correct me if I am wrong but it seems to me that this all started with the MacBook Air and it seems the competition cannot compete with the MBA on any ground including price.

    If this becomes another point to Apple’s ethos, then it may be time for many others to give up and turn to making toasters or change their tune and start actually respecting the needs of their customers.

    And dang it all, I don’t really like MicroSoft, not after its shenanigans in Apple’s early history, but I am grudgingly coming to the realisation that there may be something oddly good going on at MS, almost as if some strange Product Whisperer is making magic where no magic once belonged.

  4. I think that there is going to continue to be waves of adoption on both sides. Neither side is going to win, but will be forced to keep refreshing their lineup when a technically necessary update is available. Google is going to win the spring and summer, Apple will win back to school and christmas which are their targets. YOMV