Sales of smartphones based on Google's Android OS have skyrocketed this year, both in the US and worldwide. And Android has now outsold Apple's iPhone for all of 2010 so far.
According to Canalys, Android unit shipments are up an incredible 886 percent, year-over-year, worldwide, compared to 61 percent for Apple's iPhone and roughly 41 percent growth for both Symbian and RIM (both of which outsell Android and iPhone). Android is now the number three smartphone platform in the world, with 10.7 million units sold in Q2 2010. By comparison, Nokia's Symbian posted unit sales of 27 million in the quarter, while number two RIM had 11.2 million. (Fourth place iPhone posted 8.4 million sales.)
The situation in the US is a bit different overall, because Symbian isn't a major player in that market. But the results for Android and iPhone are similar, with Android taking second place with 27 percent of the market, compared to the iPhone's 23 percent share. However, Android is on a sharp upward trajectory, and iPhone is on a sharp decline. (The number one smartphone vendor in the US, RIM, controlled 33 percent of the market by the end of the second quarter of 2010 and is falling slightly.)
Saying that Android and the iPhone have switched places this year is a disservice to Android's meteoric rise. While Apple has shed market share steadily all year, falling from 34 percent of the market at the end of 2009 to 27 percent in Q1 2010 and then to 23 percent in Q2, Android has skyrocketed. The platform started the year at a paltry 6 percent, and saw its market share rise to 17 percent in Q1 and then 27 percent in Q2. Even Windows Mobile, widely considered an also-ran, has lost share far less dramatically than has the iPhone this year. (It fell from 13 percent of the market at the end of 2009 to 11 percent at mid-year.)
But wait, the Apple-friendly media always likes to point out at this juncture, these sales don't include the first full quarter of availability of Apple's latest iPhone model, the Titanic. (Excuse me, the iPhone 4.) Actually, these figures do include most of the stellar sales Apple has already reported. And those sales—about 1.7 million worth—occurred before the iPhone 4's endemic problems were widely reported. (It should also be noted that while most Android sales are to new customers, almost 80 percent of iPhone 4 sales are to previous iPhone users.)
The point here is simple: Android will handily outsell the iPhone this year, both in the US and around the globe, and it will almost certainly be the number one smartphone platform in the US by the end of 2010 and the number two player, behind Symbian, around the world. In fact, if you buy into the argument that Nokia's Symbian platform doesn't even meet the definition of a modern smartphone OS, as do I, then Android simply becomes the dominant smartphone platform this year, period. In fact, it's only a matter of time.
The key to Android's success is two-fold. First, Google is innovating at a much faster rate than is Apple, with Apple moving into a maintenance/protection mode with its iOS platform and no longer offering the sharp improvements it did early on. Second, unlike the iPhone, Android is available from a wide variety of hardware makers and is thus sold via almost every major wireless vendor on earth. This provides consumers with more choice.
Microsoft is pursuing an interesting hybrid strategy for its upcoming Windows Phone platform. While the company will retain an Apple-like level of control over the hardware components that go into each device and the software capabilities and future updates, it is allowing numerous vendors to sell multiple devices on multiple wireless carriers, like Android. Microsoft's hope is that this best-of-both-worlds strategy, combined with innovations in the Windows Phone software itself, will provide the company with an inroad to what is clearly a dynamic and lucrative growth market.