Why It Matters that Apple is the Number 1 Smart Phone Manufacturer

Data came out this morning from Nielsen providing insight to the current smart phone operating system market share in the US. There are several observations about this report that I want to make.

First off, although this is a report highlighting the state of smart phone operating system market share it demonstrates that Apple is the leading manufacturer of smart phones. Android has 39% smart phone operating system market share however the key point is that is spread out across multiple device manufactures.

What’s amazing to me is that Apple has accomplished 28% iOS smart phone market share with only one single new product each year. They haven’t needed a dozen or more devices on the market at any given time to garner such a large footprint in the market place. They have only needed one called the iPhone.

Second, I am pleased for HTC collecting 20% of the handset market between their mix of Android and Windows Phone. HTC is being rewarded in the market place for their own innovations with things like Sense and other custom applications. These things were created intentionally to differentiate them from other vendors using the same OS and it is working.

Lastly RIM has dropped to 20%. It seems like just yesterday that most of my market share analysis was pointing out that RIM was leading the pack with OS market share and smart phone handset shipments. How quickly things change in this industry.

One last-last point. I also like how Nielsen choose to visualize this data. Rather than a pie chart they broke it out in what they like to call a “brownie pan.” I actually think looking at data represented this way is more helpful than a pie chart.

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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

100 thoughts on “Why It Matters that Apple is the Number 1 Smart Phone Manufacturer”

    1. Then why don’t we add cash registers running Windows CE as well? iPhone share in the US is on the rebound as a result of the Verizon launch, but it’s really no use denying that Android is still in front.

        1. I’m not quite sure what you’re trying to say. I agree with almost anything on asymco.com, so where’s the contradiction?

      1. iPod touches and iPads all run the same OS, the same Multi-touch GUI, the same kernel, the same apps as the iPhone and are used in very similar ways. Of course it makes sense to compare iOS as a whole against Android as a whole.

        Your example of cash registers running WinCE is very humorous but completely borked.

        Only Android boosters wear smartphone-only blinkers and refuse to look at the big picture because it is not nearly so flattering to Android. With 222 million iOS devices vs 135 million Android devices sold, ComScore reported that iOS devices in use outnumber Android by 59% in the USA and by 116% in Europe.



    1. Hi Steve Jobs/Large AAPL investor,

      Your opinion is fascinating. Unfortunately it doesn’t apply to the overwhelming majority of consumers who aren’t smitten with the idea that they’re being gouged, which a high profit margin is always indicative of.

      1. > Unfortunately it doesn’t apply to the overwhelming majority of consumers
        > who aren’t smitten with the idea that they’re being gouged, which a
        > high profit margin is always indicative of.

        Perhaps. But it also could be indicative of a well-run company. Remember that Apple almost disappeared in the 90’s – those profits are insurance that your investment in the Apple ecosystem isn’t likely to be wasted due to Apple going out of business.

      2. Do you work for more than minimum wage? If so, I’d call that gouging. I hope that somebody will take over your job for less. There are 7 billion people on this planet and I really don’t see why we need to waste money.

      3. dennis – keep clinging to that. it’s all you have.

        meanwhile, ill develop for the only platform that actual makes me money — iOS and the App Store. not android.

  1. Aside from the vigorous sales of the iPhone 3GS (which by current standards is a very low-end phone), significant for the iPhone’s success is because of the very limited, focused product selection. Indeed, when Android was but a little baby, this was held as the argument why it couldn’t succeed, offering too much complexity and confusion for everyday consumer, versus the simple, consumer-friendly Apple approach. The Apple approach had a unified, coherent marketing position, while the Android market is distributed and unfocused. Before Android and Apple, RIM conquered the market with a remarkably limited product selection by a single vendor.

    You could argue that it’s remarkable that Android could overcome the difficulties of the model that it uses, where so many others (Symbian, J2ME, Windows Mobile) failed to do the same thing.

    1. Two crucial factors: Android offers the closest thing to the real thing (the iPhone) and it was embraced by the incumbent players (Verizon, Samsung etc.). It allowed them to effectively defend their market positions.

      1. You have both made good points. There are some pretty incredible things Android has done and several market factors led to this rise as the previous comment points out.

        Smart phones are a growth category which makes this whole space very interesting as well as very early in the adoption curve. Lots can still happen and change over the next 2-3 years. Perhaps even longer.

      2. The “real thing”? Do you actually believe that?

        People want a smartphone to access Facebook, load web pages, send email, etc. There is no “real thing”, no matter how many millions Apple spends on advertising. You may believe that the iPhone is somehow the canonical example, but it turns out that most people disagree.

        1. no actually it turns out that most people do agree. They might not buy one but if you don’t think Apple is the standard by which others are measured then you are blindly ignoring fact.

  2. Certain models of Android are seeing 30-40% return rate vs. 1.7% for the iPhone… Which phone do you think has the best money making model? One new model a year could easily spring to 2 or 3 models if the model required it. But cranking out dozens from several makers with high return rates is not a sustainable business model.

    1. By stating the Android return rate figures are you only basing that off TechCrunch’s article yesterday? I’ve seen sell into and through channel data from NPD who knows the exact number and I don’t believe the return rates of Android to be true.

    2. Your numbers are based off of a post that was probably the most widely panned, critiqued and shat on article all year. No proof or source was ever provided, just numbers pulled out of someone’s arse.

  3. Ben, I’m not sure you’re interpreting the HTC stats accurately. This is installed base, not new sales. So the Windows column mostly consists of old devices (Windows has only 2 % marketshare in new sales according to Nielsen). Windows devices made by HTC were usually sold under different brand names. So no Sense on there. The same for legacy Palm devices. When the Palm Treo and Centro had more than 10 % US share, all of those devices were made by HTC. This points to the main reason why HTC is near the top of the Android heap today: They’ve been providing smartphones to US carriers for a decade. They know the market. It’s not because they have a nice Android skin.

    1. Yes this is installed base but its also current installed base. Not overall lifetime OS share, there is a difference on how Nielsen gathers this data. These are active devices. HTC sold 25 million smart phones last year and they are on a growth pace this year as well.

      This is why i’m comfortable saying this is OS share as well as vendor position of active devices. Therefore both numbers are current and represent accurate market share numbers.

      1. I’m not doubting the accuracy of Nielsen. Just giving a different answer to the question: Why is HTC where it is today? Let me make my point in another way: If HTC’s new stuff like Sense is so important, how come they used to have 2/3 of Windows Mobile phones (at least for those still in use) and now only have 1/3 of Android? If Sense was a factor it should be the other way around.

        1. Ah yes now I see where you are going. I’ve been close with HTC since they spun out the consumer division. Even on their Windows Mobile implementations they still skinned the device (i.e added their own custom experience). It simply was not called Sense at the time. HTC decided to brand this custom experience a few years ago thus calling it Sense. But its been around for quite a while, just wasn’t called Sense.

          They have been in the business of adding value to whatever OS they used since their early days making their own devices. Not the white label carrier phones they made.

          Lastly they have the largest share of Android phones by any vendor. Which was my point that their differentiation is a platform assistant and that what they are doing to differentiate themselves from the pack is a key part of that. It always has been with Windows Mobile and it is as well with Android.

          1. The HTC Touch was the first Sense phone. I remember because people kept complaining about how touch-unfriendly WinMo was.

            That was a glorious day, and it was long before the iPhone.

            Man … I wish I’d bought HTC stock back then. I really do believe in what they are trying to do.

  4. the “installed base:” vs. current sales distinction is very important to bear in mind looking at these stats. most of us hang onto our phone for at least 2 years until the contract is done. but few hang on to their phone more than 4 years, especially now that there has been so much innovative change. so there is a real market lag built into this chart.

    the iPhone has been out 4 years now, altho its sales and hence installed base did ramp up gradually the first two years. whereas Android phones have secured almost all their installed base in just the last 2 years. this would indicate both will continue to expand their overall share, but the Android group will continue to grow faster. on the other hand, RIM’s share probably includes a lot of older models that will be replaced soon – many by iPhones/Android phones.

    the WinMo share has to be mostly older models. even MS admits WP7 sales are “modest.” they hope to add Nokia’s tiny share of course. which way WinMo goes is anybody’s guess.

  5. And when Apple wins its patent infringement cases, all those Androids shipped will be for not.

    You know, just a few weeks ago Steve Ballmer was saying that 9 PCs ship for every Mac.

    And Microsoft makes money from Windows- which is more than I could say about Google from Android.

    1. Sure, just like when Apple products are barred from import when S3 cum HTC wins their infringement case.

      “which is more than I could say about Google from Android.”

      I will humor you by exposing you to something magical that sites like Daring Fireball have addled your mind about — Android is about Google avoiding getting LOCKED OUT of a nascent market (smartphones). If Android did come along, iOS would be at 90% right now. Apple would be in a capricious position to say “Meh…we’re putting our own search engine on it instead, blocking Google” (in the say way that they’ve made various other fickle decisions about the products that their customers pay in full for). Google is no longer in that position. That is what Android is about.

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