The Myth of an iPhone Killer [Updated with added chart]

The resiliency of the iPhone in not just the US but global markets as well is truly a marvel. As we will see in some of the charts below, against all odds Apple’s iPhone market share remains steady.

I’ve long argued that vendors in the Android ecosystem compete more with each other than with Apple. One can take a perspective that says a consumer who buys an Android phone is a lost customer to Apple, at least for the time being. In the case of the ultra low-end and cheap phone market, those customers are likely simply not Apple’s target. They may be when they are ready, if they ever get so far as to value the things Apple creates. In the case of the premium market for devices like the S4, HTC One, etc., we notice that these devices seem to take share from each other more than Apple–especially in the US.

I don’t think many realize how dominant the iPhone is in the US among premium handset market share. Getting these specific statistics (iPhone 4s, 5) share of premium sales is tough but from inside sources I’m told that by quarter the iPhone US share of premium can go between 60-75%. The key take away is that the iPhone is the dominant sales device in the premium segment of the handset market.

Even knowing that, myself and many would agree that looking at usage of the devices is the key metric. People can buy lower end and even premium Android devices all they want but if they are not being used as smartphones, or creating value to the carrier, then we wonder if we should even count them.

Below is a look at the share of platform usage in the US.

Screen Shot 2013-08-27 at 8.35.52 AM

As you can see, even when new premium Android devices are launched in the US there appears to be no significant impact to the iPhone. Perhaps even more interestingly is the dip in iOS usage share during the “droid franchise” peak. Then as we can see when the iPhone came to Verizon it gained share back. The key losers over this time period was clearly RIM.

Now if we turn our eyes to the global vendor market share, we see similar patterns. For obvious reasons, the iPhones share of the global smartphone install base is much lower than the US but what we see is that its piece of the pie stays relatively the same size.

Screen Shot 2013-08-27 at 8.28.05 AM

Notice for example that Android’s gains are not making the iPhone’s share of the pie look like RIM’s, Bada’s, or Symbians. Meaning declining. Android is gaining, yes, but the iPhones share is not decreasing like the others.

Now to look at what the opportunity looks like going forward I want to show a much bigger global handset vendor picture.

Screen Shot 2013-08-25 at 8.54.26 PM

When looking at this image there are several things to note. First is that the iPhone’s share again remains relatively constant. It is not shrinking dramatically like other vendors but keeps its slice of the pie relatively static. However, look at the global rise of “others” in this chart. These are largely white box label vendors flying off the shelves in China. The size of the “others” pie is even larger in China than local brands like Huawei and ZTE. Others is the real growth opporunity as we see customers refine their interests and look to go with more established brands than white box makers.

I can show charts all day of global vendor sales and in no chart will you see iPhone’s share of the pie shrink rather you see it maintain. Obviously, what we will watch going forward is for the share of the pie to grow, likely at the expense of “others” to begin with. The point to take away in all of this is simply that there is no such thing as an iPhone killer, even though many assume there is.

Published by

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

176 thoughts on “The Myth of an iPhone Killer [Updated with added chart]”

  1. Nice charts.

    iOS is self-sustaining. I hope to write an article next week on “the long tail” in order to show why iOS will REMAIN self-sustaining for a long while to come.

  2. The two last charts seem quite similar to me. There’s no mention of “others” in the last chart. Copy/paste error?

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