Why market share doesn't (yet) matter in mobile

Why market share doesn't (yet) matter in mobile

For years now I've been arguing that market share doesn't matter in mobile. Only I was wrong. Not about market share not mattering, but about why it doesn't matter, at least not yet. Charles Arthur, however, does a fantastic job explaining why. The Guardian:

Because it's easy to measure market share — much easier than measuring installed base, which requires large panels of people who you interview on a regular, repeated basis. (ComScore does this in the US, where it provides a picture of the installed base of smartphone users that is consistent back to the end of 2009. Its figures for the three months to September 2013 show a 51.8% installed base for Android — that's 76.6m — and 40.6% for iPhone — that's 60m. It's not 80% Android; not even close.)

I'd argue a step further, as well. Why is it important how many phones run Android? Is it important how many phones run *Nix? It's probably going to get to the point where what matters is how many phones can access the Google Play Store vs. the iOS App Store. Whether it one day matters or how many can access the Samsung app store will be something interesting to see as well. In the meantime, read Arthur's article via the link below.

Source: The Guardian via Daring Fireball

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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Why market share doesn't (yet) matter in mobile


I live in New Zealand. Every cheap phone is an Android phone and mean cheap. No one wants contracts over here so there is a flood of cheap crappy "I can make a phone call" phones. Prepay is the way people generally go. !00 minutes of talking and unlimited texts, SMS's and 1/2GB of data for $19 a month with no contract and bring your own phone. The vast majority of uses buy these cheap phone and text and make calls and pretty well wouldn't know hoe to download let alone want to use an app at all. Android phones have replaced cheap feature phones and are generally not used as a smartphone (I am referring to these cheap ones only not he GS4's obviously) So I don't see market share as an accurate measure. There seems to be 2 markets in that case. People who use them as a smartphone and people that don't. I'd like to see some figures.

It doesn't matter now cause Apple is not #1, if they were #1 in this category all the fanboys would be bragging about it etc etc, and also making more claims that Samsung copied another one of Apples products

Your first point...you're probably not far off.
Your second point...you lost me; there's no logical connection there.

The basic rationale applies, when Apple is on top nobody question statistics, its taken at face value, all the "record sales" etc. When Apple is not on top, statistics are scrutinized to the point of exaustion until proven irrelevant.

That reflects no reality in which I live. However, I'm willing to concede my reality doesn't have any enormous chips on shoulders either (just in cookies!).

Seriously, this has nothing to do with Apple, it has to do with reporting, and is there anyone who doesn't want the quality of reporting to go up? (Don't answer that!)

1) Apple was never #1 in phone market share. Nokia and RIM were way ahead of them before, Android is way ahead of them now.

2) You didn't read the linked article. It wouldn't matter even if Apple was #1. It's simply not a saturated market yet, so install base matters more. (Android is almost certainly ahead there as well, but it's harder to measure.)

Honestly does market share matter that much when in the Android world you have incredibly cheap tablets being sold that probably aren't being used the way an iPad gets used? These shipment statistics never match browser usage statistics. And no the difference isn't Android users "fooling" their browser into thinking their tablet/phone is a PC. What this tells me is cheap Android tablets/phones aren't being used to the extent iPads/iPhones are.

I use my Nexus 7 so much more than I ever used my iPad. I even sold off one of my macbook pros because I use my Nexus 7 so much

Here is a thought, it is fairly easy to measure exactly how many and what type of phone in use. Get the data from carriers !
Can't understand why this should be such a secret ?

Actually, it would. Carriers consistently report incredibly high iPhone sales, often more than half their units sold (one quarter last year it was ridiculously high on AT&T.) I wouldn't be surprised if Apple had the greatest share if measured that way in the U.S., and Android in other countries. But it also probably wouldn't matter.

Like a Anthony, one of our writers said, measuring connection data from the towers might be an even better way.

However, rather than making everything about Apple vs. Android (which it's not), it's more interesting to actually think about the state of the market, and the tremendous growth that's still possible.

Or, you know, and I'm just spitballing here, read the linked article. :)

The whole market share thing is quite interesting. Back in the day when iPhone had around 40% of the smartphone segment in Europe, Apple evangelists touted market share the holy grail, since it attracts developers. Now that is overtaking iPhone in the large European markets, the same people no longer discuss market share, but mind share, installed base, etc. Of course, apple's pricing model is unsustainable in Europe, so the installed base will fall behind in the future, too, since it follows market share inevitably. One wonders what the fanboys will then boast about. Apps? Well, local apps will be built first or solely for other platforms -- are already being built, in fact.

That's not the case at all - they touted number of units sold and amount paid to developers - two far more influential stats.

I have no doubt Apple would trumpet market share if it was in their favor, the way they trumpet usage share now, but what Apple does is pretty meaningless for consumers.

"Fanboy" is the type of word that prevents intelligent discussion on any topic. It's dismissive. It's beneath us. Instead consider this: Be a fan of consumers. Who cares what's best for the big companies, what's best for us?

I use a Mac, which has almost no market share. Does that mean it works any less well, or that I enjoy it any less? No, of course not. Even in an industry that has reached saturation, where market share matches install base, how important - how well understood - is the term market share.

How important is it when considering what to buy compared to other stats?

What's the context?

I think it matters less now than it did with pc's back in the day. There are so many more smart phones being sold now than pc's were in the 90's that even a 15% market share would warrant interest from developers.

Market share for android in the US is around 50% so no shit US install base is the same... worldwide its 80%... Dumb article

Interesting to see Benedict Evans directly contradict this guy. Great to see analysts fight over statistics.

It's referenced in the comments of the article you link. Evans believes Android has about an 70% usage share, a factoid that sort of disagrees the point of the article (granted both authors are just guessing and Evans has some wild ideas (i.e. the used market for iPhones is negligible)). Market share predicts the future and usage share predicts the present. Market share absolutely matters as it's a precursor to the future; all one has to do is look at Symbian and Blackberry for proof of that. More of importance to Apple is marketshre as Apple makes all it's money from sales, not from usage. Riddle me this; what does Apple gain more from; a user buying a new iphone or a user buying a used iphone? In that scenario, only one affects market share but both affect usage share..

What I don't get is how is there any comparison on the whole iOS vs android argument. There really is no easy way to gage that, I mean android isn't just one phone. It's like 1,000's of phones that run android with different price points, different markets and different makers. There is only one iPhone theoretically speaking, there is only one phone that can run iOS. Which to some is very pricy or people just not into the style. So, it's kinda not a fair comparison......unless we straight talking about makers.

There are three iphones being sold at the moment. Not just one. And they get pretty cheap on contract. And everyone on this forum knows that Apple has the number one selling smart phone. It just doesn't account for the lions share of the OS. And it probably never will. All forecasts have Android holding on to that title well into 2017 if not later.

Like this article and the one it is writing about states, market share means nothing. Of course android is going to hold market share as like the first commenter wrote. 3rd world countries by cheap phones and cheap phones run android as it is free to compile. Most have no access to google apps and no access to the play store. This is why so many reports have surfaced that show iOS accounts for way more web traffic then android does. Most android phones sold aren't accessing the web and are just the new feature phones for off contract pre paid phones. If you want to count these and feel that android is somehow better then be my guest. I personally use and love both and android is behind in the facets of the market that actually matters such as the Eco system (where android is not even close) and also the high end market that apple only competes in (you know the one that actually makes revenue). Apple doesn't even have a phone that competes in these markets and never will. What would be the point? In the high end market that we all know and love their is no phone that is even coming close to any of apples offerings. For example, Samsung announced during the s4 release that it has sold its 200 millionth galaxy s variant (this includes every galaxy s they make all over the world which literally covers dozens of samsungs best selling devices like the galaxy s 1, 2, 3, and 4 and note 1 and 2 (the note 3 wasn't out at this time and many many others over a 3 year period). This is no small feat. Now let's look at apple. The iPhone 5 sold 5 million devices in its first weekend and the 5s is somewhere around 90% of the 9 million sold during its first two days on the market. Apple sells 20-40 million of its current gen iPhone every quarter. We all know samsung is selling a massive amount of phones and it is quite the feat yet, as you can see the high end market even Samsung is no where close to matching what Apple sells of it's lonely 4" iPhone in any model. Samsung holds somewhere of 90% world wide market share so if Apple is absolutely dominating them in the high end market of phones we all know then how many low end feature phones in other countries make up this number? I would say somewhere of 80-85% of the 90% market share they have. Not so impressive anymore is it?

Like I mentioned before and so did the article. World wide market share means nothing. Of course android should be able to outsell apple and their 3 iPhones that are never free on contract like dozens are at anytime on android even here in the states. If android couldn't outsell iOS then I would be worried. The real number is how many of the market share is really using the OS and making the owner of the OS money. When you look at that then apple is never going to be caught. Even Google sees this as they have just as many devs working on high end google apps for iOS as they do working on android as a whole. Not only that but some apps get updates on iOS before android even does and some even look better and run better. Why would they dothat if they had such a commanding lead and apple was doomed anyway?

What I'd like to see is: which platform has the highest percentage of trolls staked out in competing platform-centric blogs?!

The data would help determine the "Get-A-Life" champion...


Sorry,I've not read the article (yet), but I thought I would ask something. Why the fascination on market share? Are people viewing this as a gauge to make their next purchasing decision on, or as some sort of justification that they bought into the right ecosystem?

Personally, I quite like not having the same phone as everyone else! For the record as a long time BlackBerry user I've just picked up the Z30. I've never been asked so many times "what phone is that? Is that the new Sony?" lol. Attention seeking aside it's nice to be a little different.

I've noticed that people use these figures as a sort of Willy measuring exercise (excuse the phrase). It's as if somehow by buying an S4 or iPhone suddenly makes them the chief designer and marketeer of the product and the success of said product is all down to them! It's a bizarre phenomenon. Newsflash, they are both excellent products hence their success!

Right, now I'm off to read the article.... ;-)

We're all biased, we established that long ago.

And that's why we comment on posts like these, to keep you guys on your toes ;)

LMAO, go on ANY android site/forum & the in-fighting between Samsung/HTC/PureAndroid/etc users trumps any iOS-vs-Android nonsense I've seen. C'mon dude..........

Seems to me the issue is, next to no companies outside of Apple report shipped or sold figures so where do these analytic firms come up with their market share figures? And this has nothing to do with sold vs shipped because if a company wasn't selling what they were shipping they'd have huge write downs on their financials ala Microsoft and Surface. But honestly I'd love to know where IDC and others get their shipment figures because it never seems to match usage statistics from mobile ad tracking firms.

What I still can't figure out is why Apple refuses to make an App store for Android, that was the stupidest error they could ever had made. As their market share continues to drop, investors will freak and keep forcing them to do things that may not be in their best interest (Microsoft comes to mind). Had they invested heavily in opening up an App Store that Android and Windows phones could access, like they did with iTunes and Windows, it wouldn't be such a big deal about who had what market share. Now, I give them ten years till they're the next Nokia.

Here's another odd thing about just looking at Android vs Apple market share. The more you buy, the lower your material costs will be, and the market share leaders usually can undercut the smaller players. Android has a huge advantage over Apple but no single model outsells the iPhone. Even the 4S outsold the Galaxy SIII early in 2013. So that means Apple, the "small" player has the equivalent of a market share leader purchasing power in the mobile world.