Comparing The Market Share of Android Phones To The iPhone Is A D@mned Lie

John Kirk / June 20th, 2013

Disraeli is reputed to have said that there were three kinds of lies: Lies, damned lies, and statistics.

“Lies, damned lies, and statistics” is a phrase describing the persuasive power of numbers, particularly the use of statistics to bolster weak arguments. ~ Wikipedia

Comparing the market share of Android phones to the market share of iPhones is a damned statistical lie and it should never be done. Here’s why.

Venn Diagrams

If you drew a Venn diagram of “all iPhones” and “all iPhones that ran iOS”, they would be one and the same. Here is another example of such an overlapping Venn Diagram:

helpful-venn-diagram-for-the-ladies-18244-1267403205-248

Source: thehighdefinite

— If you replace “Male friends who joke about having sex with you” with the words “all iPhones”; and
— If you replace “Men who would have sex with you if you showed the slightest interest” with the words “all iPhones that ran iOS”…

…you would ruin a perfectly good joke. But you would also have a Venn diagram that accurately represented the overlap between “iPhones” and “iPhones that run on the iOS operating system.” All iPhones run on iOS. But the opposite is not true. iOS is more than just iPhones.

On the other hand, Android phones are made by many manufacturers. About 40% are made by Samsung and the other 60% are made by Motorola, Sony, HTC and a variety of different hardware manufacturers. Why then do we lump all Android phones together and count them as one?

The only legitimate reason to group all Android phones together is in order to suggest a causal relationship between the number of Android phones and the strength of the Android platform. But is there such a relationship?

Comparing Android’s phone activation numbers to the iPhone’s sales numbers is akin to comparing fish to whales and concluding that fish outnumber mammals.


The Folly Inherent In Comparing Android Phones to iPhones Instead Of Comparing Android To iOS

Comparing Android’s phone activation numbers to the iPhone’s sales numbers – and concluding that Android outnumbers iOS – is akin to comparing fish to whales and concluding that fish outnumber mammals.

Fish MAY outnumber mammals, but not nearly by the margin that fish outnumber whales. And Android devices do outnumber iOS devices but not nearly by the margin that Android phones outnumber iPhones. When making comparisons, one needs to compare like to like, otherwise, it skews the results.

There have been over 900 million Android devices activated and over 600 million iOS devices sold. And – if Flurry’s clientele is representative – the total number of active Android devices may only exceed the total number of active iOS devices by little more than 10% (see chart, below).

ios_android_chart1

Source: Flurry

Comparing an operating system to an operating system; comparing all active devices to all active devices; comparing like to like;1 – now THAT is the proper basis for a comparison.

You do not compare an entire class of things to a subset of another class, and you do not compare phones that run the Android operating system to a subset of devices (iPhones) that run on the iOS operating system2, otherwise, you are likely to get is a skewed result…

…and a damned lie…

…or (-shudder-) a “Chart Of The Day.”3

Legitimate Reasons Vs. Bogus Reasoning

There are legitimate reasons to compare fish to whales and there are legitimate reasons to compare Android phones to iPhones.

images-60Mammals and Fish Venn Diagram

But if you’re actually trying to compare fish to mammals or the Android operating system to the iOS operating system, such a comparison conceals – rather than reveals – the truth. It is deceitful, dishonest, untruthful, false, duplicitous, mendacious; hypocritical, untrustworthy, unscrupulous, unprincipled, two-faced, double-dealing, underhanded, crafty, cunning, sly, scheming, calculating, treacherous, Machiavellian, sneaky, tricky, foxy, crooked, fraudulent, counterfeit, fabricated, invented, concocted, made up, trumped up, untrue, false, bogus, fake, spurious, fallacious, deceptive and misleading.

In other words, it’s a damn lie.

  1. And don’t even get me started on the limited VALUE that Android’s market share brings to their platform. Android’s market share is literally a joke.

    And if you are going to compare Android phones to iPhones, then it would be wiser and fairer to compare premium Android phones – such as the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the HTC One, etc. – to the iPhone.

    And if you REALLY want to contend that market share translates directly into platform strength, then it would be far better to compare operating system VERSIONS against competing operating system VERSIONS, rather than simply lumping all of an OS’s versions together, totaling them, and pretending that they were of equal value to the platform. []

  2. By the way, the exact same logic holds for comparisons of Android tablets to the iPad. Those comparisons are just as wrong as comparisons of Android phones to iPhones and they are wrong for the exact same reason – a class should never be compared to a subset of a class if your goal is to compare the two classes. Hardware models should be compared to hardware models. Operating systems should be compared to operating systems. Hardware models should never be compared to operating systems and vice versa. []
  3. A “Chart Of The Day” pretends to be based on relevant statistical data – but it often is, basically, the same thing as a damned lie – only worse. []

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?
  • snake4812

    maybe the worst article i’ve ever read, thanks for wasting my time

    • benbajarin

      counterpoints?

      • snake4812

        I don’t actually disagree with anything he’s saying, it’s just a dull read. The cute little joke is just stupid and not needed to make his point. There is no actual analysis on why anything he is talking about matters.

        Contrast this with his fascinating read from a couple weeks ago- “Google’s Android Activations Are A Lot Less Cash Cow And A Lot More Bull. And That’s OK”

        What the hell was the point of this?

        • benbajarin

          Got it. I’ll let John answer why he thought this was important. There were parts that made me laugh so I enjoyed it for that.

          I’d be curious on your thoughts on my comment below, as that is where I think the real discussion can begin.

        • FalKirk

          First, thank you for your kind comment regarding my earlier article.

          “What the hell was the point of this?”

          I’m trying to put a spotlight on improper and illogical analysis of the mobile sector. I should just be able to say that you don’t compare an operating system to a single device model and be done with it, but, clearly, what I think is obvious is not at all obvious to many. I used a sledgehammer (an entire article) to drive home a nail (a single point) because people are refusing to grok the foundational fallacy in their analysis and then they are building elaborate arguments and conclusions upon that flawed foundation.

    • the Ugly Truth

      written anything of use?

  • krabbie

    Many fish give live birth to their young, other than that I like the article and it told no lies.

  • benbajarin

    With everything, getting to the root of why a comparison is being made is key. How these comparisons are made in public is much different than how they are made in private reports I write and read. There is a business and economic reason to make such comparisons but private reports make a more accurate comparison. The problem is these real comparisons won’t drive page views because they don’t tell the Apple is doomed story the press so desperately pushes for the sake of pageviews.

    John’s footnotes, call this out correctly. Comparing premium device market share is a useful metric. This shows an OEM how much room there is to compete for share of a segment and will help them determine whether a segment is worth going after or not. It helps identify potential opportunities. Comparing the market share of versions of Android vs. iOS or other is a useful metric for developers. Because it shows them a TAM that helps them make decisions on where to spend resources. Why, for example would a developer spend valuable resources to update a game with new Android version API’s when said new version has low share? They won’t until it has higher share and is worth their time. Hence showing how many active devices are using a particular Android OS is a useful metric. Now if we were to compare the total number of Android devices running Jelly Bean to iPhones running iOS 6.0, this chart would disproportionately favor iOS. Thus giving devs useful information.

    It all comes down to why a comparison is being made. And unfortunately the most useful ones will probably never see the light of day.

    • FalKirk

      Agreed. As I said in the article, there are legitimate reasons to compare fish to whales. But those reasons wither away and become disingenuous if your true purpose is to draw a comparison between fish and mammals.

      If your contention is that the Android operating system is stronger than iOS because it is larger, then you need to compare all Android devices to all iOS devices, not all Android devices to some iOS devices. It’s as simple as that.

    • Rich

      The Apple is doomed story is the biggest load of —- I’ve heard in quite awhile.

  • Peter

    The metaphor is a pointless distraction that does not add much to the analysis. Now what I do find interesting is the data from Flurry that suggests that Android and iOS devices are somehow different in usage and/or life.

  • Jurassic

    This is exactly what I’ve been explaining to some people who are confused in the things they compare to each other.

    Either compare phone model to phone model, or a company’s line of smartphones to another company’s line of smartphones, or operating system to operating system… but don’t mix them.

  • def4

    Wow, you really beat Jackie Chiles there.

  • JohnDoey

    The OS market share lie doesn’t even work for Microsoft Windows anymore. Everyone who continues to propagate it knows it is just propaganda.

  • mintslice

    Oh my gosh. I have no idea what point you are trying to make.

    I don’t use iOS because Apple wants to limit my choice in the future and they want to dumb me down to Joe average. I’m better than that. We all are!

    Android gives me choice. I have two Nexus devices, but I don’t know what my next device is going to be – competition between manufacturers will make sure it’s great, and in every case my selection will be governed by my ability to continue to choose in the future.

    • Joe Avarage

      “I don’t use iOS because Apple wants to limit my choice in the future and they want to dumb me down to Joe average. I’m better than that. We all are!”

      If you think we are all better than average the Apple can’t dumb you down any further.

    • FalKirk

      “…I have no idea what point you are trying to make.” – mintslice

      My point: Misusing statistics to support a faulty argument does not advance the discussion. It is inaccurate and misleading to compare “Android” phone market share to iPhone market share or “Android” tablet market share to iPad market share if you are trying to compare one OS to the other.

      An OS needs to be compared to an OS, not to a subset of a competing OS.

    • Oh my gosh. I have no idea what point you are trying to make.

      Stop using total “Android” device activations as a metric to judge the relative health ofApple’s iOS platform.

      There. That wasn’t too hard, was it?

    • the Ugly Truth

      Huh? what the heck have you been smoking?

      “I’m better than that”…followed by….wait…..wait….
      “We all are better than that”…

      Well…if we ALL are “better than that”….how can you be “better” than…err..that?

      What “choice” does Android give you that someone “less than you” cannot do without?

  • Ob Server

    “Comparing The Market Share of Android Phones To The iPhone Is A D@mned Lie”
    Then you cant compare Computers with diffrent Operating Systems.

  • the Ugly Truth

    LMAO…

    BUT, droids will counter that….

    FISH outnumber whales.
    FISH and whales live in the sea.

    Therefore, FISH STILL outnumber whales regardless!

  • Sudhakaran

    We can compare Android phones with iPhones. Still Android easily beats iPhones and iPhonns are being pushed to the bottom. iPhones have no future as their innovation has stopped long back, while Android are emerging with new features, almost daily.

  • Sudhakaran

    The fact is that Android is killing Apple. And, that’s why the author does not want to compare.

  • Sudhakaran

    Android comes in all form factors: from lowest to the highest. There is no restriction on these form factors. Thus, companies are producing all form factors and better variants.

    Apple has itself restricted its iPhones to one or two form factors and not giving its iOS to other OEMs. This is not an external restriction imposed on Apple. It is fully internal.

    Thus, when Apple wants to restrict itself to one/two phones while Android is available on multitude of form factors, why don’t you want to compare all Android with all iPhones? Because, you know iPhone gets beaten by Androids.

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