After pleading with Google not to release the Android smartphone operating system, Steve Jobs famously claimed that Apple would “go thermonuclear” on the platform. Today, according to the third quarter 2016 smartphone shipments report from Strategy Analytics, Android’s share of global smartphone sales reached an impressive 88% – taking market share from Apple iOS, BlackBerry 10 and Microsoft Windows Phone, amongst others. The Strategy Analytics report also shows that smartphone shipments reached 375 million during the quarter, representing a growth of 6% compared with the same period last year and reversing the trend of slowing growth: this is the strongest growth for a year. The report showed that it is still the emerging markets that are driving smartphone shipments, particularly from the Asian, Africa and Middle Eastern markets. Western Europe and North America are showing “modest smartphone regrowth” as consumers replaced old devices.
Android has long been the world’s most prevalent smartphone platform with Apple iOS in second place, but looking through the details it appears that the Apple iPhone has suffered from weak sales in the African and Chinese markets whilst Windows Phone and BlackBerry 10 have almost completely disappeared. Apple’s market share has dropped by 5% during the period. The iPhone has always been priced as a premium model and the devices are facing increasing competition from other metal-built devices with at least a comparable specification, but often a price tag that is many hundreds of dollars less. The latest iPhone model also introduces relatively few new features whilst removing one that many customers still want: the iPhone 7 dropped the headphone socket, following a trend that has started in the Android world. Microsoft have distanced themselves from the smartphone operating system market and are instead concentrating on building applications to run on either Android and iOS, whereas BlackBerry had shifted towards Android away from BlackBerry 10.
Although Android continues to dominate the world’s smartphone market, the platform is not without its problems. Although the malware situation is nowhere near as bad as Apple’s Chief Executive believes, the platform’s relative openness means that there are many malicious developers working on malicious applications, some of which masquerade as genuine applications and can root our devices. We must also discuss the issue of platform fragmentation, whereby there are large numbers of devices running older versions of Android as compared with the current Android 7.1 Nougat platform. Google’s recent introduction of the Google Pixel and Google Pixel XL devices could be seen as attacking their existing hardware platforms as much as the Apple family of devices. Furthermore, only a very small number of Android manufacturers are making money from device sales, whereas Apple’s profit margin on the expensive iPhone remains very high.