Android v. iOS Part 1: Market Share

on August 27, 2012


This is the first article in a multi-part look at the Android and iOS operating Systems. An operating system (OS) is the software that manages computer hardware resources and provides common services for computer programs. Applications (or Apps) require an operating system in order to function. The most famous and prevalent operating system in the world is Microsoft Windows. However, Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS operating systems are the two prevailing operating systems in the world of mobile devices, and since mobile appears to the future of computing, one or both of these two operating systems may well be the future of computing too.

There has been much confusion and even more debate surrounding the Android and iOS operating systems. Some see Android v. iOS as a repeat of the Windows v. Mac wars in the nineties with Google’s Android playing the role of Windows and Apple’s iOS playing the role of the Mac. Others think that, this time, Apple’s iOS is the operating system destined to rise to the top. Still others think that the entire debate is moot – that the new OS wars are already over and that Android should be declared the de facto winner. Their argument rests on Android’s staggeringly rapid growth and massive market share numbers:

“According to research firm IDC, Android devices made up a whopping 68.1% of all smartphone shipments in Q2 2012. That calculates to 104.8 million of the 154 million smartphones that left manufacturers plants in the quarter. By comparison, Apple shipped 26 million iPhones in the quarter, good for 16.9% of the market. – As reported in ReadWriteWeb

TechCrunch takes these numbers and sums up the thoughts of many:

“The latest numbers are in: Android is on top, followed by iOS in a distant second. There is no denying Android’s dominance anymore. There is no way even the most rabid Apple fanboy can deny that iOS is in second place now. Android is winning.” – Android Is Winning


When making comparisons, we should always be careful to compare like with like. Android is an operating system. The iPhone is a single device within an operating system. Comparing Android to the iPhone is an unfair and incomplete analysis. A better comparison – in fact the only accurate comparison – is to compare the Android operating system to the iOS operating system. When you do that, the market share numbers take on a whole new look.


The iOS operating system includes not only iPhones but iPod Touches and iPads as well.

We know that over half of the iPod’s sold are iPod Touches and we know that Apple sold 6.8 million iPods last quarter. That means there were at least 3.4. million iPod Touches sold last quarter and perhaps many more as well. While it’s true that Samsung has an iPod Touch-like device on the market, their sales numbers for this device appear to be nominal.

Turning from the iPod Touch to tablets, we know that Apple sold 17 million iPads last quarter or about 70% of the total tablets shipped. That number includes all tablets, including those by Amazon and others, but just to be conservative, let’s assume the the entire remaining 30% of tablet shipments can be attributed to Android devices.

Add the iPod Touch, the iPad, and the additional Android tablet numbers back into IDC’s figures and Android’s market share numbers, while still impressive, don’t look nearly so intimidating.


We also know that if one combines iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad sales numbers all together, that Apple surpassed 410 million cumulative iOS devices by the end of June 2012. It’s almost certain that total Android sales now exceed those of iOS (it’s hard to know for sure since virtually no Android manufacturer announces numbers) but even if they do, they exceed iOS’ numbers by a couple of percentage points, at most.


Experts often possess more data than judgment. – Colin Powell

If market share is the measure by which one determines who is “winning”, then we need to measure again. And while we’re at it, maybe we should be asking ourselves whether market share is the be all and end all of metrics. Tomorrow, we do exactly that – we explore whether market share is the only way, just one of many ways, or just a component of the way to measure who’s really “winning” the mobile OS wars.

Coming Tomorrow: Android v. iOS Part 2: Profits

Android v. iOS Part 2: Profits
Android v. iOS Part 3: Network Effect