Do The Math: iOS 6 Is The World’s Most Popular Mobile Operating System

In fact if you do the math, you would find that iOS 6 is the world’s most popular mobile operating system and in second place is a version of Android which was released in 2010. ~ Tim Cook, WWDC 2013 (1:13:55)

Okay, let’s do the math.

Total iOS Sales vs. Total Android Activations

We know that there are approximately 600 million iOS sales and 900 million Android activations.

Now all we need do is multiply the total sales/activations times the version percentages claimed by iOS and Android.


Source: Is iOS Fragmenting? Not Nearly as Much as Android.

“And by the way, this is the most ideal state of Android. It only includes a version of android which talk to the Google play store so it doesn’t include things like Kindles and Nooks. ((In addition to excluding Kindles and Nooks, Google’s statistics exclude the millions of Android devices in China and other regions that don’t use Google’s services. Google is inflating their total activation numbers by counting them all and inflating their Jelly Bean numbers by only counting units that contact the Google Play Store.))~ Tim Cook, WWDC (113:30)

The Math

558 Million (93.0% x 600) iOS 6 (Fall 2012)
329 Million (36.5% x 900) Android Gingerbread (Winter 2010)
297 Million (33.0% x 900) Android Jelly Bean (Summer 2012 and Winter 2012)
230 Million (25.6% x 900) Android Ice Cream Sandwich (Fall 2011)
043 Million (04.8% x 900) Android older than Gingerbread
036 Million (06.0% x 600) iOS 5 (Fall 2011)
006 Million (01.0% x 600) iOS older than iOS 5

Analysis & Commentary

[pullquote]iOS 6 is the world’s most popular mobile operating system[/pullquote]iOS 6

— Tim Cook was correct: iOS 6 is the world’s most popular mobile operating system.
— iOS 6 leads second place – Android Gingerbread – by ~229 million users.
— iOS 6 leads Android’s most recent version – Jelly Bean – by ~261 million users.

And if you look at the customer’s of each operating system that are using the latest version, it’s not even close. ~ Tim Cook, WWDC 2013 (1:13:40)

[pullquote]75% of Android users and only 7% of iOS users are on non-current versions of their respective operating systems[/pullquote]

— 75% of the Android ecosystem is on the non-current versions of the operating system.
— 7% of the iOS ecosystem is on non-current versions of the operating system.

Google reports that, as of June, the largest segment of Android devices are still running version 2.3 Gingerbread (36.5 percent), which was released in the Winter of 2010.

More than a third of android users are using an operating system that was released in 2010. ~ Tim Cook, WWDC (1:15:25)

Jelly Bean
Only 33 percent are running the latest major version, Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, which was announced last summer alongside Apple’s debut of iOS 6.

Ice Cream Sandwich
Another 25.6 percent are still on Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, which was released the same month as iOS 5.

Android older than Gingerbread
Another 4.8 percent of Android users use software older than Gingerbread.

iOS 5
Only 6 percent are still using last year’s iOS 5, the last version supported by the original 2010 iPad, 2009 iPod touch and 2008 iPhone 3G.

iOS older than iOS 5
Just 1 percent of Apple’s App Store visitors still use a version older than iOS 5, released in October 2011.

Do Versions Really Matter?

Android advocates claim that fragmentation isn’t really a problem. What nonsense. Ignoring the deleterious effects of fragmentation doesn’t even pass the smell test. ((Definition of “the smell test”: A cursory test of something’s authenticity or legitimacy ~ It stinks to high heaven, both of cognitive dissonance and hypocrisy.

— It’s terrible for users who don’t have the latest features and the latest security updates.

Now this isn’t just bad for users, but this version fragmentation is terrible for developers. ~ Tim Cook, WWDC 2013 (1:13:45)

— It’s terrible for developers who want to use the latest APIs – who want to take advantage of the newest tools, techniques and technology – but can’t because they have to support years old operating systems.

— It’s illogical. If being on the latest version of an operating system doesn’t matter, then why even do newer versions?

— It’s partisan. It violates’s Kirk’ first law of objectivity ((I feel fairly certain that this will come back to haunt me.)):

“Would you maintain the validity of your contention if the positions were reversed?”

Please. Arguing that operating system versions don’t matter is the same as arguing that reality doesn’t matter. Every piece of data available supports the hypothesis that iOS is the stronger platform, despite Android’s numerical superiority. That either means that activation numbers don’t matter as much to a platform as pundits contend they do, or that Android’s activation numbers need to be discounted.

Or both.


Definition: discounting, verb, Deduct an amount from (the usual value of something)

Even if you think that raw numbers are the essence of a strong platform – and you really shouldn’t – you have to agree that older versions of iOS and Android must be discounted ((Other discounts should be applied as well, such as engagement, usage, demographics, security, ease of access and use, etc.)) if we are to make a proper comparison of the two operating systems. The problem is that the discount rate is unknown. ((Or, at least it’s unknown to me.))

If, for example, you:
— Disregard the versions of iOS and Android that are older than 3 years; and
— Discount iOS 5 and Ice Cream Sandwich by 25%; and
— Discount Gingerbread by 50%; then

Your revised and re-calculated numbers would look like this:

558 Million (558 x 1.00) iOS 6
005 Million (006 x 0.75) iOS 5
563 Million iOS Total, After Discount

297 Million (297 x 1.00) Jelly Bean
173 Million (230 x 0.75) Ice Cream Sandwich
165 Million (329 x 0.50) Gingerbread
635 Million Android Total, After Discount

Of course, the problem is that I just made these discount numbers up out of my head. I showed my math so that you can change the discount numbers and do your own calculations. If anyone knows a way of obtaining a truer, more objective discount number, I would be grateful if they would share it with us in the comments, below.


iOS 6.1.2 is the Most Popular Version of iOS Less than One Week Following Launch

Why Android Updates Are So Slow

Google engineers: We’re trying to fix Android fragmentation

The Orphans of Android: “I believe there are a lot of Android devices from months and years gone by that are sitting in drawers at home or are being sold on eBay.”

Fragmented Android drives big dev to Apple: “(The (BBC) Trust found a series of quite logical reasons why Android lagged iOS when new features were added to iPlayer, mostly surrounding the “complexity and expense” of developing for Android.

The company also noted a couple of other logical reasons why developers dealing with limited time and budget would opt for Apple’s mobile OS:

— Engagement is higher on Apple devices
— Android is fragmented
— Android development is complex and expensive

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?

21 thoughts on “Do The Math: iOS 6 Is The World’s Most Popular Mobile Operating System”

  1. Actually, what you’re counting here is devices, not users. Some people have more than one phone (Work & personal), or they have a phone and a tablet, or they haven’t yet sold/passed on their old device yet. Getting the number of users will take a lot more guesswork and involve using data that apple and google don’t provide themselves.

    For Google, the amount we have to discount the number of devices to get the number of users is probably mostly about old devices sitting in a drawer since their resale value is fairly low. For Apple, it’s probably more about accounting for the number of iPhone & iPad owners (since resale value is pretty high).

    1. “… what you’re counting here is devices, not users.” – Glaurung-Quena

      An interesting thought, but I’m not so sure that you are right. The percentages reflected in both the iOS and Android pie charts, above, come from devices that are actually accessing their respective app stores. (The total numbers, however, almost certainly do include devices that are not in use, since they are not accessing their respective stores.)

      1. “accessing their respective app stores”

        OK, then it doesn’t include any drawer devices… but there’s still should be a discount of some kind for people with multiple active devices (tablet & phone, or work phone and personal phone). This will probably hurt Apple’s numbers more than Google’s, because a lot of Ipad owners are also going to have an Iphone.

        1. “…there still should be a discount of some kind for people with multiple active devices…” – Glaurung-Quena

          Not if they’re using the devices.

          The old argument was that consumers could only afford a single $600 device and that device would be a fully functioning PC. But the truth is that people find a way to buy what they want. And we now live in a multiple-device market. The phone, the tablet and the PC are tools that do different jobs and more and more consumers are moving to own – and use – them all, not just one.

          1. OK, then what about multiple activations? Namely, from sales of used iPhones and iPads, for instance… Does that count in the figures? Also, the shipments versus actual sales, because i see all the time in my country apple products for sale, whereas samsung products and others are out-of-sale… Also, how much cross-checking the data is there for Apple stats versus Google, Samsung, etc? Also, what about biased sources and worst of all, reusing faulty data from a single source, especially on the web, where articles just get copy-pasted from site to site… Stats aside for now, what reason has Apple to totally reinvent the user interface on iOS 7 then?! What reason for even mentioning Android, which is something only desperate corporations do… You don’t see Google nor Samsung doing it… Going back to stats, it lacks context and the fact remains that Android sells more than Apple by 300 million! The fragmentation results of the very nature of an evolving open-sourced OS… The apps argument is moot because it is not the number of apps, but the quality and USABILITY of them that matters, meaning what app is most useful to the use I have for it… In a word, stats DO lie or at least, give a wrong perspective, and it is mindboggling that Tim cook shows stats slides with no mention of it’s sources, which pretty much empties his claims and outside of WWDC, the stats show a different picture… But that is to be expected: Tim was talking to developers, trying to manipulate them into avoiding Android and solely working for them! That is a cheap tactic and I have watched the entirety of WWDC and after Tim’s initial address, I felt I was in lala land, where all is beautiful for Apple and nothing else… By the way, the stats about mountain lion and Windows 8, was cheap as well… Also, it failed to address the issue that mountain lion is an upgrade, as in ‘MAC OS 10 etc’ versus Windows EIGHT’,(upgrade versus full novel OS)… And it conveniently forgot that Windows outsells Mac OS by the millions, and iOS sells 300 million less than Android, doesn’t matter what version it is… Also, people who buy iPhones or Galaxy S3 and S4, or HTC One (Top of the line phones, with top of the line prices) are not the same as middle or low end ones, for different people with different demands for their OS… Most use the phone for calls, messaging, occasional web browsing and taking occasional photos… So, that is a reality conveniently placed out of the stats…

            It is like the saying goes ‘Statistics are like a bikini: what it shows is interesting, but what it hides is essential’… Cheers

        2. “but there’s still should be a discount of some kind for people with multiple active devices”

          No, there should not be a discount for any reason. If the device is actively used, then it is an active device and should count toward the respective OS’s active user number.

    1. The number of “market share is all that matters” articles still being written says otherwise, but your point is taken.

      1. Perhaps collect your observations into a Monthly Market Share Musings, as this is something that may over time change and be worth a periodic update.

        But having one person just bang out story after story on that one topic seems a little Don Quixote.

  2. Since Google has never released real and verifiable figures on what happens with Android, even with all sources of information that John Kirk has consulted, I find it hard to believe that Android really has achieved that number of activations, especially considering that the only manufacturer that actually sells its Android products is Samsung. The sales figures of all other manufacturers who install Android on their phones are simply and plainly ridiculous, so easy.

    As much as it hurts to fandroids, Apple is the only company that publishes REAL SALES figures, not shipped, not sent to the retailer, not placed in the “channel”; no, Apple ALWAYS publishes actual sales.

    Android? For me? Not if they give away the beautiful HTC One to me.

    1. “the only manufacturer that actually sells its Android products is Samsung.” – Carlos

      Actually, Samsung sells about 40% of all Android phones. But they take in some 95% of the Android profit from those sales.

      I think the 900 million number is accurate. But activations are not sales and activations are not usage. The impact of those 900 million activations feels like about half the impact of the iPhone’s 600 million sales.

  3. John, It’s actually even worse for Android.

    Flurry reports that 510 million iOS devices are active in terms of running apps.

    However, only 568 million Android devices are active worldwide according to Flurry. Not surprising considering the very large proportion of Android devices are cheap glorified featurephones which are useless for running apps or browsing the web and which get thrown away at end of contract.

    That means that less than 190 million Android devices are running Jelly Bean compared to 475 million iOS devices running iOS 6.

    1. “That means that less than 190 million Android devices are running Jelly Bean compared to 475 million iOS devices running iOS 6.” – melci

      I’m not sure that we can extrapolate to that extent, but your point is still valid.

      1. But why compare Apples major releases 5,6 to Androids minor releases. Only Android 2 and 4 are noteworthy which frames a completely different picture. Just because the geeks at google like to celebrate with mascots and dessert names, the major releases should be compared apples to apples. I dont see IOS 6.01 or 6.2 or the various other releases.

  4. Out of date. Jelly Bean now leads Gingerbread. Anyway, who wants an old OS like iOS anyway? It looks and feels ancient, even in its latest reincarnation.

  5. The latest stories are of iOS trying to play catch-up with Android in the US. I think you Americans overestimate the importance of iOS in the world. Even in the US, iOS has gone from 100% to 40% and Android from 0% to over 50%. In the world, Android is totally dominant and iOS is minute. Even Samsung alone sold twice as many phones as Apple in 2013 Q1.

  6. this is a desperate attempt to try and prove that apple isnt dead in the water. Android has market dominance and i can only imagine what will happen to these figures when microsoft build their market. Iphone is a nice toy but has had its day.

    1. I have several customers that love their iPhone. Almost all say the same thing. “It’s just so simple!” Yup, that’s why it really hasn’t changed much since the day it launched and now 79% of the planet runs Android. Playing number games with which version in particular is just laughable. Android destroys Apple market share and trying to deny it is like saying the world is flat. You just sound ridiculous.

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