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Android posts impressive growth -- but so does Apple

ComScore, a leader in market research on mobile devices, publishes data on smartphone market share by device maker on a three-month basis.  The results offer some interesting perspective, as they are one-month out of alignment with calendar quarters -- the window most other market research firms deliver their data on.

Throughout 2011, comScore reported that everything looked great for Google Inc.'s (GOOG) Android, which was surging ahead [1][2][3], at nearly every other smartphone players' expense.

But the latest numbers, in terms of total subscribers, reflect a more heated race for smartphone supremacy between Google and Apple, Inc. (AAPL).

comScore Q4 by platform

For Nov. and Dec. 2011, plus Jan. 2012, Android sustained a 2.3 percent growth pace.  Meanwhile Apple managed an impressive 1.4 percent growth.  These numbers reflect strong sales of the iPhone 4S reported by America's top wireless carriers during the holiday season [1][2][3].

Looking ahead to 2012, the biggest question is whether Apple will be able to keep accelerating its growth to the point where it once more becomes a serious threat to Android.  Despite its strong quarter, Apple's iPhones are still outnumbered by Android devices 3-to-2 in the U.S. market.

In terms of overall mobile device sales (including feature phones), Apple was the only OEM in the top five to post a gain.  

comScore Q4 2011 by OEM

However, that figure is a bit deceptive as Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd.'s (KS:005930) 0.1 percent dip or Google's almost-subsidiary Motorola Mobility's larger 0.4 decline, are arguably a healthy sign, in that -- combined with the overall large Android growth -- they represent a customer migration to feature phones.  As it takes several feature phones to equal the profits of a single smartphone, these numbers ultimately look promising for Samsung and Motorola.

But they're also very good for Apple, who not only grew fast, but also slightly grew its OEM market share.  That represents that some feature phone ditchers are jumping ship to Apple for their first smartphone.  And considering Apple as much as an order of magnitude more profits per-device than Android phonemakers, it's evident why Apple is sustaining its position as the world's most profitable electronics company.

iPhone 4S
Many first time smartphone buyers are choosing Apple's premium-priced devices.
[Image Source: Device Mag]
Word came this week that Apple and top Android phonemakers may be close to a licensing truce, ending hundreds of global lawsuits.  The end to that distraction should allow the phonemakers to refocus on their top objective -- market competition.

The picture isn't pretty for Ontario-based Research in Motion, Ltd. (TSE:RIM) or Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) both of whom slid in market share.  RIM has big plans to reimagine itself in 2012 by cutting its fees and debuting new BlackBerry 10 OS (QNX-derivative) devices.  Likewise, Microsoft's partner Nokia Oyj. (HEL:NOK1V) is stepping up its game [1][2] and other partners also have LTE Windows Phones on or approaching the market.

Source: comScore

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RE: Andriod
By TakinYourPoints on 3/9/2012 9:53:00 PM , Rating: 2
It has been known for a little while that carriers push Android over other mobile platforms. One reason is cost to the carrier.

The iPhone on the whole costs more to them than Android does. A top Android handset like the Galaxy S II will run them about as much as an iPhone, both wholesale and retail. The thing is that many Android sales are in the mid and low tier which is much faster to make money back on. Not everyone is buying a top of the line Android phone, so on the whole carriers aren't eating as much paying for them. It is a different story with the iPhone, almost every one sold is a high end model like 4S, even with the availability of older iPhones.

Data usage is another issue. iOS users on the whole use much more data than Android users. This obviously strains carriers as they are rushed to build out and upgrade their infrastructure to compensate.

Finally there is control. Neither of the above issues apply to Windows Phone 7 (sadly, because it really is a good OS that deserves to sell well), but the issue of control does. Both Apple and Microsoft demand control over their devices and OS upgrades. Carriers are free to install their own software and put branding on Android devices however they please. The cynical part of me assumes this is why they push Android over WP7. WP 7.5 Mango can be installed on even the WP7 oldest handsets and iOS 5 runs on 2009 iPhones. Carriers drag their feet on ICS upgrades on perfectly fine hardware that is still well within a 2 year contract, therefore giving customers incentive to ditch hardware more frequently.

There are lots of reasons why carriers have incentive to push Android over other mobile OSes, and like with everything else in life it comes down to money.

"So, I think the same thing of the music industry. They can't say that they're losing money, you know what I'm saying. They just probably don't have the same surplus that they had." -- Wu-Tang Clan founder RZA

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