Android Dominates Q4, Combines with iOS for 91% Smartphone Share

Apple’s iOS and Android’s Google continued to dominate the global smartphone market in 2012, combining in the fourth quarter for over 91 percent of total smartphone shipments, according to data released late last week by IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker. According to the IDC report, Apple and companies manufacturing Android-based smartphones shipped a total of 207.6 million units worldwide during the last quarter of 2012, a 70.2 percent increase from the 122 million units shipped in the last quarter of 2011.

IDC Global Smartphone Shipments 4Q2012

The performance of the competing smartphone platforms was nearly as good for 2012 overall, with both combining for 87.6 percent of the global market on 722.4 million units during the year. This represented a 68.1 percent increase from the 494.5 million units shipped in calendar year 2011.

Ramon Llams, research manager for IDC’s Mobile Phone division, summarized the findings:

The dominance of Android and Apple reached a new watermark in the fourth quarter. Android boasted a broad selection of smartphones, and an equally deep list of smartphone vendor partners. Finding an Android smartphone for nearly any budget, taste, size, and price was all but guaranteed during 2012. As a result, Android was rewarded with market-beating growth.

Likewise, demand for Apple's iPhone 5 kept iOS out in front and in the hands of many smartphone users. At the same time, lower prices on the iPhone 4 and the iPhone 4S brought iOS within reach of more users and sustained volume success of older models. Even with the Apple Maps debacle, iPhone owners were not deterred from purchasing new iPhones.

IDC Global Smartphone Shipments CY 2012

Although iOS performance remains strong, the IDC report notes the slowing rate of growth for the platform that has likely contributed to the recent fall in Apple’s stock price. In the face of robust growth for competitors like Samsung, Apple may consider revising the iPhone mid-year instead of waiting for another fall release, the report argues:

[W]hat…stands out is how iOS’s year-over-year growth has slowed compared to the overall market. The smaller volumes during 2Q12 and to a smaller extent 3Q12 underscore the possibility for a mid-year iPhone release in order to maintain market-beating growth. Speculation about the release of possible larger-screen and inexpensive models during the middle of 2013 continues to follow Apple, which would help sustain growth. But until any model is formally announced, speculation remains simply that.

Overall, however, the success of Android and iOS will make it tough for newer platforms to gain a sustainable foothold, according to IDC’s program manager Ryan Reith, but a desire by consumers for a diverse product line still leaves room open for competitors like Windows Phone 8 and BlackBerry 10. “There is no question the road ahead is uphill for both Microsoft and BlackBerry, but history shows us consumers are open to change. Platform diversity is something not only the consumers have asked for, but also the operators,” Mr. Reith stated in the IDC report.

IDC’s data supports the findings of Strategy Analytics, released in late January, which showed a combined global market share of 92 percent for iOS and Android in the fourth quarter of 2012.