Android v. iOS Part 1: Market Share


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

Published by

John Kirk

John R. Kirk is a recovering attorney. He has also worked as a financial advisor and a business coach. His love affair with computing started with his purchase of the original Mac in 1985. His primary interest is the field of personal computing (which includes phones, tablets, notebooks and desktops) and his primary focus is on long-term business strategies: What makes a company unique; How do those unique qualities aid or inhibit the success of the company; and why don’t (or can’t) other companies adopt the successful attributes of their competitors?

31 thoughts on “Android v. iOS Part 1: Market Share”

  1. 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.”

    And what are the numbers? I feel like that conclusion is missing from your article, am I supposed to calculate them myself?

    1. I disagree with the author on that point…

      104.8 million Android phones in Q2 vs. ~46.4 million iOS devices in Q2 (26 million iPhones + 3.4 million iPod touches + 17 million iPads). So, even assuming Android tablets and music players had 0 sales in the 2nd quarter, Android still outsold iOS by more than 2-to-1.

  2. Well if you want to compare apples to apples don’t include ipods in apples numbers, simply because no one is advertising android mp3 players..there’s maybe one in wasn’t built to just be mp3 players.. So a fair comparison would be iphones and ipads vs android phones and tablets..but any way you put it, android is the come from behind winner, and every quarter is growing faster than iOS, so android is the winner

    1. “if you want to compare apples to apples don’t include ipods”-Chris toombs

      The iPod Touch is an iOS device that runs almost exactly the same as the iPhone but without the phone functionality. It should most definitely be counted with the iOS devices.

    2. Exclude the iPod touch? Is that your way of gaming the numbers to forward your “android is the winner” meme? Your idea of a fair comparison seems to entail cherrypicking the numbers, rather than objectively looking at true comparables.

      The entire point of the article is that iOS is a multipronged platform that supports multiple devices, all of which are part of the same ecosystem. An iPod touch will run nearly all of the same apps as an iPhone or iPad. To a developer, a customer using an iPod touch is no different from someone with an iPhone — their app will run the same way. An iPod touch has far more in common with an iPhone than “mp3 players,” including other iPod models.

      1. 104.8 million Android *PHONES* sold in Q2 vs. 46.4 million iOS *DEVICES* sold in Q2 (26 million iPhones + 3.4 million iPod touches + 17 million iPads).

        Even if we assume that every iPod sold in Q2 was an iPod Touch and use 6.8 million instead of 3.4, Android Phones are still outselling iOS Devices 2-to-1.

        Please correct me if I am cherry picking numbers…

        1. Matthew, upon casual review, your numbers look right to me. Give me a little time to let the series unfold then come back to me if I haven’t addressed this issue. Thanks.

  3. How do you know the total number of tablets sold?

    Android tablets from China (as sold by online retailers like ebuyer or direct from China by sites like PandaWill) do not need activating and do not necessarily connect to cellular networks. How does anybody know how many of these are sold?

    I see more of these amongst my friends and colleagues than I do iPads, Galaxy Tablets, Kindle Fires, PlayBooks or any other branded tablet. I have four of these myself, two Android tablets and two Android games consoles I bought direct from Yinlips in China.

    1. A true Google-compliant Android device has to be “activated” by registering it to a Google account. Google realizes data on activations, but does not separate phones from tablets. For those Android devices that are built on open-source Android without Google compliance (including the Kindle Fire) there is no reliable data.

  4. android is king and will destroy Apple. Apple knows this; thus all the psychotic behavior from Apple. Even the billion plus dollar settlement is but a small hiccup for android. and only a hiccup in America. if google opens google stores around the world like apple, then apple is dead. if android goes to PC then Mac is dead. if google begins to backup manufacturers and attacks Apple, then Apple is dead. google has the internet infrastructure to obliterate Apple. Apple pickeda wrong fight. Samsung has gigantic friends. they are coming for you now Apple you big patent bully.

    1. All I am seeing is “IF” repeated numerous times.

      As I ALWAYS try to point out when these arguments arise, lets make a couple of legitimate comparisons.

      First of all, the Android = MS Windows comparison: could not be more accurate. MS whored Windows onto every possible POS PC it could strong arm it’s way onto in the 80’s and 90’s. There were hundreds of millions of Windows PC’s, and about 80% of them were absolute junk that were so virus-riddled in 2 years time they were rendered useless. Luckily, there was Dell and HP and Sony there with another Windows PC POS for $700 you could buy, trash and repeat bi-annually.

      Or you could buy a Mac every 7-8 years, needing to upgrade simply because software advancement taxed the older infrastructure.

      Now, let’s compare AN Android device vs AN Apple iOS device. I’m fairly sure the Galaxy series of phones from Samsung is one of the best selling individual phones in the Android lineup. Let’s look at how many Galaxy’s there are vs how many iPhones are in use. I don’t have the numbers, mainly because for SOME reason (shame, perhaps) Samsung nor Google/Android releases those numbers. However, I am VERY certain that the Galaxy makes up FAR less than iPhone’s ~ 1/3rd market share.

      No, iOS devices in use do not hold a candle to the number of Android devices, because you can’t get a cheaply-made iOS device for free or next to nothing. You are going to pay and pay a pretty penny for ANY iOS device.

      Oh look…. You can get a cheap, unreliable POS WinDroid, or you can pay more for a well-built, high-quality iOS device that you only have to replace every few years, and even then, you’re likely to simply be upgrading because you WANT the new iPhone.

        1. It’s dangerous to rely on anecdotal evidence. The iPhone has the best support and satisfaction numbers in the business, by far. Your experience sounds like an anomaly rather than the rule.

      1. Android WILL be going to the desktop with 5.0 which is why the latest was 4.1.1 (Jelly Bean). Google will make an entire OS from it for all types of platforms and expect to see it for free.

        Steve is iDead, Apple is showing they are rotten to the core. Devices made in overseas sweat shops where they force the workers to sign no-suicide pacts only to be faced with deplorable work conditions. *Shame on you* for not looking for this yourself and for touting ANY iOS device as high-quality.

        Apple as a company has made their OSx platform from the BSD community, knowing they would NEVER have to ‘give back’ to it because of the license – and that is why they didn’t choose Linux to begin with.

        Guess what I can do with your OSx / iOS software? I can run it on my Android phone or Linux system if I so chose to.
        What is used to jailbreak iOS? Linux.
        What is used on over 90% of the top 500 supercomputers in the world? Linux.

  5. Apples to apples means you need to consider EVERYTHING running the OS. You neglect to mention the cameras, refrigerators, coffee makers, NASA satellite controllers, etc. that are now running off Android (which is really nothing more than a Linux distribution for those of you who actually know what a kernel is). Come on man leave the stat skewing to the politicians.

  6. John,

    Could you write another article?

    Comparing apples to …. iOS 5 numbers vs Modern Android (3.x or 4.x) numbers.

    Is it fair to compare Android 2.x to iOS 5.x???

  7. I want to know who’s market share numbers to believe. If the recent court evidence in San Jose is any indication analysts are way over-stimating at least Samsung’s (and by extension Android) numbers, by millions. To listen to carriers (w/regard to smartphones) who carry both Android and iPhones, iPhones are soundly over-running Android phones. Never mind the whole sell-in v sell-through issue.

    So exactly where are all these Android devices being sold and who has them? And if all these Android devices are actually being sold, how come only two Android device makers made a profit last quarter, with HTC, while profitable, trending on a downward spiral?

    From my less than even layman vantage point, something is not adding up. It seems like someone is lying.

    In one regard, though, I think there are only two market share numbers that matter. First is on the handset maker level. LG or Sony is not consoled to hear that Android is “winning” when they continue to lose money. These companies need “Android is winning” to mean “_we_ are making money”.

    The second number is the only number that can be used for honest comparison, the carrier numbers. Not all carrier have the iPhone. Samsung is everywhere. At the carrier level is the only place where access is even and all things are (hopefully) equal. In one regard the over-all figure is less about market share as a result of desire and more about what is actually available to purchase.

    And then there are carriers like T-Mobile, who don’t sell iPhone, but apparently cater to a large number of iPhone users. Not sure how that translates.


    1. One source of confusion is U.S. vs. worldwide numbers. Apple’s market share is much greater in the U.S. than anywhere else. Another is shipments vs. sales. Apple reports actual sell-though to end users. Many phone makers report shipments. This is essentially wholesale sales and is always larger than retail sales, sometimes by quite a bit.

      1. Sure, I get all that and have read about that for a couple of years now. But the recent court case is calling into question a discrepancy of MILLIONS and at least one discrepancy of almost 2:1:

        And apparently it isn’t just a matter of shipments v sales. I’ve read a couple of possibilities of juggling outgoing inventories to inflate numbers (I have no idea of reliability, but when it comes to gaming the system, I have no doubt it is at least possible).

        So what is not adding up is if Android sales are all they are reported to be, why is Samsung the only one making money? Sure Samsung accounts, on paper, for a large bulk of the Android sales, so that skews number somewhat. But unless the other handset makers are just that incompetent businesses (which I guess is entirely possible) someone is lying.

        Now, as asymco points out most Android makers don’t report actual Android sales. The sales Samsung reports not only do not line up with the court documents, neither do analysts.

        Even if we take Google’s “activation” numbers it still isn’t all that clear what that number means. Especially (I can’t remember the quarter) but at least once activations seem to outstrip sales. How is that even possible?

        And I will admit that my only experience with carrier numbers is US carriers. What are carrier numbers elsewhere, take a large company like Orange (are they still “Orange”? I can’t remember.)

        So, while I am sure Android is selling large numbers, the actual numbers being thrown around are seriously striking me as way off. And especially if you compare them to profit share, something seems _really_ off. I mean, I know these are the only numbers John had to work with. You work with what you got. But all the numbers sure would make a whole lot more sense if not as many are being sold as are being reported.

        I suppose a lot of carriers and handset makers are selling at a loss or i suppose there are that many models sold at razor thin margins, but that seems like a poor business model to hitch your wagon to, long term OR short term.


  8. Superb post however I was wanting to know if you could write a litte more on this topic? I’d be very grateful if you could elaborate a little bit more.

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