IDC on Smartphones: Android Gains Share, Apple Loses Share, and Microsoft Passes BlackBerry

The June quarter saw some changes in the battle for smartphone share, according to new numbers from research firm International Data Corporation (IDC). In that quarter, Android gained share, while Apple lost share. The biggest surprise, however, may be the sharp uptick in Windows Phone sales that saw Microsoft pass BlackBerry to take over as the #3 platform.

First, let's look at the data in terms of units shipped. The chart below shows that the smartphone market remains a tale of two platforms, Android and Apple's iPhone. Even there, though, the story is more complex than that because Android—with 187.4 million units sold—is dwarfing the iPhone—with 31.2 million units sold—in total numbers shipped. More on that below.


Chart by The Mac Observer from data by IDC

The fight for a distant third place has seen some movement, and shockingly it is Microsoft's seemingly moribund Windows Phone that is doing the moving. Thanks almost entirely to two new Nokia Lumia models, 8.7 million Windows Phone units shipped in the second quarter compared to 4.9 million units in the year-ago quarter. That's a 77.6 percent increase year-over-year.

That's enough to displace BlackBerry (formerly Research In Motion) for the third place spot, the first time since the iPhone rose ascendant that Microsoft has claimed such a distinction. BlackBerry's unit shipments decreased from 7.7 million units to 6.8 million.


The market share picture also demonstrates Android's overwhelming dominance of the smartphone handset business. Android gained ten percentage points in share year-over-year, rising from 69.2 percent of the market to 79.2 percent, as shown in the chart below.


Chart by The Mac Observer from data by IDC
(The "0%" at the bottom of the bar on the right is the "Others" category)

Apple's iPhone lost share, as it typically does in the June quarter, shrinking from 16.6 percent to 13.2 percent of the market. Apple posted a record June quarter of 31.2 million iPhones sold, an increase of some 20 percent, but that wasn't enough to keep pace with the rapid rate of growth in the smartphone market.

"The iOS decline in the second quarter aligns with the cyclicality of iPhone," Ramon Llamas, Research Manager with IDC's Mobile Phone team, said in a statement. "Without a new product launch since the debut of the iPhone 5 nearly a year ago, Apple’s market share was vulnerable to product launches from the competition. But with a new iPhone and revamped iOS coming out later this year, Apple is well-positioned to re-capture market share."

As noted above, Microsoft also saw a market share increase, rising from 3.1 percent to 3.7 percent of the market. All other platforms declined, with the now-canceled Symbian less than irrelevant and Samsung's Bada being relegated to "Others" status. Linux is also on the decrease, though it's possible it will make a comeback with the Tizen OS project (Hint: I doubt that).

The Windows Phone Surprise

Whodathunk that Microsoft could see 77 percent unit sales growth with Windows Phone. Until now, it really seemed like no one was interested in Microsoft's mobile OS, but Nokia is clearly finding some traction with its devices.

The lesson there is that Nokia, which was once dominant in both feature phones and smartphones, shouldn't be written off just yet. IDC said that 81.6 percent of those Windows Phone sales were Nokia devices.

Is There Need for a Breakdown?

Apple fans will be quick to point out that most Android devices sold are profitless, cheap devices that are little more than pseudo-fancy feature phones. That's true, and as such those devices shouldn't be considered by developers as relevant to their resource allocation decisions.

Total market share is equally meaningless to accessory makers, as accessories are almost exclusively the domain of the high end of the market.

That doesn't mean that measuring total market share is without value, however. Carriers, for instance, especially carriers in non-US markets where feature phones are still dominant, can use market share data to shape their support resources and even bandwith management.

The reality, however, is that Apple's fiscal 2013 has been so far been the year of Apple losing smartphone share, of iPhone growth decelerating. That's something that matters to investors, and it does play a role in the narrative about Apple and its product lines.

That narrative, in and of itself, has an effect on ongoing sales. Whether or not it should have such an effect is moot—the effect exists.

Fortunately for Apple, market share isn't the end-goal. Making great products that Apple can earn a profit on is one goal, but the bigger goal is in creating and maintaining a broad platform and a supporting ecosystem that is self-perpetuating and profitable.

Naked market share numbers don't address that story, and that's OK, because other metrics do.