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Android: the dog caught the car. Now what?

Nov 15, 2013 — by Eric Brown 1,248 views

Google’s Linux-based Android OS is approaching Windows-like domination of the smartphone industry, according to IDC’s third quarter smartphone report. Android reportedly has reached a new high of 81 percent of units shipped, while all other platforms have dropped since Q2 2013.

Android’s smartphone share jumped almost 2 percentage points since the second quarter, up from 79.3 percent, while Apple’s iOS edged down from 13.2 to 12.9 percent.

Scratching for the crumbs (see IDC’s data table farther below) were BlackBerry, plunging from 2.9 percent in the second quarter to 1.7 percent, and Microsoft’s Windows Phone, which dropped from 3.7 percent to 3.6 percent in the same period. Since last year, however, Windows Phone has had the biggest growth at 156 percent, compared to Android’s 51.3 percent growth. The overall smartphone space grew 39.9 percent year-over-year in the third quarter, to 211.6 million units shipped.


For many smartphone consumers, as well as a good share of business and tech journalists, operating system share doesn’t mean much compared to which company is doing best. Last month, IDC offered its corporate breakdown for Q3 2013, showing Samsung still firmly in charge with 31.4 percent share, followed by Apple at 13.1 percent. The fastest year-over-year growth, however, came from Huawei, Lenovo, and LG, all with only 4.6 and 4.8 percent share, but boasting growth rates ranging between 71.4 and 76.5 percent. All three are primarily or exclusively invested in Android phones.

One factor that favored Android was that almost all major Android vendors offered the increasingly popular 5- to 7-inch phablet smartphone models. In Q3 2013, phablet shipments accounted for 21 percent of the smartphone market, up 3 percent year-over-year, says IDC. “We believe the absence of a large-screen device may have contributed to Apple’s inability to grow share in the third quarter,” stated Ramon Llamas, Research Manager with IDC’s Mobile Phone team.

Yet most of the shipment numbers are coming from the low end. “Android and Windows Phone continued to make significant strides in the third quarter,” stated Llamas. “Despite their differences in market share, they both have one important factor behind their success: price. Both platforms have a selection of devices available at prices low enough to be affordable to the mass market, and it is the mass market that is driving the entire market forward.”

Non-Android Linux drops — will it re-emerge in 2014?

Non-Android Linux and Symbian were dropped from IDC’s OS tally list for the first time, and were collectively lumped into a 0.6 percent “other” bucket that dropped 80.1 percent year-over-year. Symbian may be dead, but a number of new Linux OS players are hoping to fight back, primarily targeting the same low-end market Android is going after with its new, 512MB RAM-capable Android 4.4 “KitKat” release.

Presumably, IDC’s current Linux numbers reflected continuing sales of leftover WebOS-based HP Pre stock, as well as the first Firefox OS phones. The latter began selling in Spain and Poland at the beginning of the quarter, but didn’t expand to Venezuela and Colombia until August — halfway through the quarter. Only at the very end of the quarter did they reach Brazil, with rollouts expected after that in Mexico, Uruguay, and Peru.

Other mobile Linux options: Firefox OS; Tizen; Ubuntu; Sailfish
(click images to enlarge)


Other open source Linux mobile OSes have yet to reach market. It appears that Samsung’s Tizen phones may not arrive until at least the second quarter of 2014, and the first Ubuntu phones may not ship until the end of 2014.

The next Linux OS player to reach market appears to be Jolla’s Sailfish OS-based Jolla phone, which this week was revealed to be heading for Finnish customers on Nov. 27 with the help of Finnish carrier DNA. In September, Jolla said it would offer full Android compatibility on its MeeGo-based Sailfish OS phones, and this week revealed that it was partnering with Russian web firm Yandex to offer Android apps for the device via its Yandex.Store. Jolla is also partnering with Nokia to offer the company’s Here mapping app.

IDC data

IDC’s Q3 2013 mobile OS shipments data appear in the two tables below. The first table shows shipment volume and market share for Q3 2013 and Q3 year-over-year, while the interactive chart below that indicates comparative average selling prices for the top mobile OSes.

Top four mobile phone OS shipments and market share
(units in millions; source: IDC)

  3Q13 Shipment Volumes 3Q13 Market Share 3Q12 Shipment Volumes 3Q12 Market Share Year-Over-Year Change
Android 211.6 81.0% 139.9 74.90% 51.3%
iOS 33.8 12.90% 26.9 14.4% 25.6%
Windows Phone 9.5 3.60% 3.7 2.0% 156.0%
BlackBerry 4.5 1.7% 7.7 4.10% −41.60%
Others 1.7 0.6% 8.4 4.50% −80.10%
TOTAL 261.1 100% 186.7 100% 39.9%


Smartphone ASP by OS, for top four OSes


More information on IDC’s smartphone study may be found here.

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