comScore: Apple & Google Gain Smartphone Subscriber Share

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Research firm comScore has released a new report for the three months ending in August, 2012, that show Apple's iOS and Google's Android platforms consolidating their lead in the smartphone market. Both platforms gained share at the expense of all other U.S. players. Apple also gained share in total mobile subscribers, while arch rival Samsung was flat, and LG and Motorola Mobility lost share.

comScore's measurement is of subscribers—that is, phones in use, as opposed to sales of new devices. Those two data sets can diverge according to how long devices remain in use, a metric that frequently benefits Apple as its devices stay in use longer than competing devices.

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According to the report, 116.5 million U.S. consumers owned smartphones during the three months ending August 12th, 2012. That's up 6 percent from the three month period ending May 12th.

As shown in the chart below, Google's Android platform remained the #1 platform with 52.6 percent of the market, up from 50.9 percent in the prior period, a gain of 1.7 percent. Apple also remained firmly in the #2 spot with 34.3 percent, a slightly larger increase than Android of 2.5 percent.

comScore Smartphone Subscriber Share

Chart by The Mac Observer from comScore data

Woe be to all other comers, as RIM saw its share drop 3.1 percent to 8.2 percent. Microsoft, which is hoping to claw out a foothold with Windows Phone 8, dropped from 4 percent to 3.6 percent, and the now discontinued Symbian OS (Nokia) dropped to an insignificant 0.7 percent of the smartphone market.

Mobile Subscribers

The broader mobile market includes all handsets, both smartphones and so-called feature phones. While Apple doesn't offer a feature phone, the iPhone maker was still the #3 device maker in the U.S. market, with 17.1 percent of mobile subscribers. As shown in the chart below, that's an increase of 2.1 percent from the prior period, an interesting increase considering that sales of new iPhones slowed during the period as consumers awaited the iPhone 5.

comScore Mobile Data

Chart by The Mac Observer from comScore data

The only other firm to gain share in the U.S. was HTC, whose share increased 0.2 percent to 6.3 percent. Top dog Samsung was flat, while LG dipped to 18.2 percent and Motorola—which is now owned by Google—slipped to 11.2 percent.

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What would be interesting is to see smartphone subscriber share broken down by OEM. All of Apple's competitors make feature phones, but there's no money in it. They are low margin devices on the wane and will sooner or later be as endangered as a relaxed Dell executive.

Smartphones are where the future is, and Samsung and Apple are bitter rivals. Our assumption is that Samsung has been gaining smartphone subscriber share at the expense of its Android brethren, but by how much, and is that how much more than Apple's own share growth?

This is further complicated by what we mentioned at the top of the article, the disposability of everything without an Apple logo on it. Used Android devices find new homes in landfills far sooner than Apple's devices—remember that Apple does a tidy business with one and two year old models that it uses as its entry level offerings. That practice, plus the perceived quality of the iPhone, mean that older iPhone models maintain value for many years.

All of which boosts Apple's subscriber share independently of Apple's share of new device sales, which is what every other research firm measures.

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Also you forgot that Samsung and the rest give away a phone for every one that you buy. Apple again doesn’t do this either. So Samsung and others say they double there sales when in reality they have given away half of them.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

But have you seen the Pew study? grin.


Demographically, Android phones are especially common among young adults and African-Americans, while iPhone and Blackberry devices are most prevalent among college graduates and the financially well-off.



Your contrast suggests that African Americans are neither college educated nor financially well-off, although I think I follow the point you’re trying to make. Indeed, I would welcome, as I mentioned in another TMO column (I really wish we could post urls the way we used to) deeper analysis on who is purchasing from which platform and why. When I look at my own profession, there is no doubt that iOS devices far and away capture the lions share of medical app purchases and are the preferred platform for that sector; same goes for faculty at the university. It’s not even close. I concur with your basic thesis that the two platforms, and their associated hardware, are appealing to two distinct, and perhaps divergent, markets.


When I look at the trajectories of either smartphone or mobile subscribers from an epidemiological point of view, if I were a Google or Android OEM exec, I’d be bothered by these data. The trajectories are all wrong. Percent share is either dwindling or flat (or anaemic if you count HTC). If I were an MS exec, I’d point out that Windows 8 has yet to unleash hell on the market, so let’s revisit this one quarter post - release.

When FB was faced with similar stats back in August of effectively marginal growth, their stock price fell victim to speculation that the FB market might be saturated. While there is no evidence to suggest the smartphone market is saturated (indeed, all available data suggest the opposite), the fact that smartphone subscription share shows lacklustre growth suggests lack of enthusiasm for Android offerings. We’ve seen this in PC sales with everyone but Apple showing shrinking growth. Ominously, Google execs and pundits alike cite the MS model and Windows platform behaviour for Android relative to Apple in smartphone business models.

While one can argue that Android purchasers might merely have been holding off for product refreshes (we’ve seen that affect Apple iPhone sales), one can also argue that this could also be a Windows/PC race-to-the-bottom product quality adverse effect on Android, which is also, and undeniably, a part of that same model. Lower prices inspire consumption, lower quality doesn’t. The Android Authority point argue in their head-to-head comparison of the Samsung Galaxy S3 and the iPhone 5 (see Martellaro’s PD from 28 September), that Android OEMs are going to need to up their game. Given those already razor thin margins, that will be no mean feat, and I think highlights the vulnerability of this third party, mutually competitive, OEM model.

Nathan Hillery

For “wain” I think you meant “wane”. Sorry, it’s a blessing and a curse…

Bryan Chaffin

Thanks, Nathan! I see it as more of a gift and appreciate the note. smile

The typo was corrected.

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