Once again: Android can't outsell iPhone

Nielsen is once again trudging out a survey saying Android outsold iPhone and BlackBerry in the US. So once again we'll trudge out this kindly, helpful reality check:

  • Android is platform, not a phone.
  • Android is free, you can't buy it.
  • iPhone is not a platform, it's a phone.
  • iPhone, you can buy.

So did Google's own Nexus One outsell iPhone? No, of course not. Android is great OS running on spectacular hardware. However, its used by multiple manufacturers on multiple carriers in multiple models in the US. iPhone is made by Apple and runs on AT&T on the US. Now if Droid X outsold iPhone, that would be a proper comparison. Moto vs. Apple, Android vs. iOS, Verizon vs. AT&T. Hey, I'd pay to see that in the consumer Octagon any day.

Daring Fireball's John Gruber makes an argument that if Apple ever got on Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile USA the comparison might be more meaningful, as it is now in countries like Canada where iPhone is on 3 major carriers and their subsidiaries. Apple still offers one phone (or one current phone and one holdover from the year before) while RIM offers a variety of 1st party BlackBerrys and Google licensees offer a variety of 3rd party Androids. If the US were like that at least we'd be able to see what if any differences those three business models bring to the market.

Android as a platform, given its license, is surely going to eclipse any solitary handset by anyone else, including Apple (unless and until Verizon forks it into its own, proprietary V-OS, but that's another post).

For now, Nielsen's survey and the headlines rapidly making their way around the blogsphere might as well read:

BREAKING!! Protein outsells golden delicious apples in the US!

Absolutely true, and absolutely meaningless.

[GigaOM 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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Reader comments

Once again: Android can't outsell iPhone


Can we just lite all the people who make this comparison on fire? the thing is all these carriers and phone makers want to play down how amazing the iPhone is. they can't find any hard data so they change it. what does android have? openness? sure but what doesn't it have? everything the iPhone has.

Obviously he thinks we are smart enough to know he means Android is selling more than iOS and whatever OS blackberry runs. Just goes to show this is PC VS Mac all over again only this time on phones.

@Erik make your own blog and you can publish whatever you want! Just an idea.
And yeah its ignorance that makes people think "Android" outsells iPhone and other phones.

I think some of you are missing the larger point. Yes, Android is a platform rather than a phone, but with more phones running the Android OS are being sold than those with iOS means that long term, the platform that reaches more customers is the Android platform. Thus, developers are going to look at things like this when they decide what apps to write and what their target market should be.
A nice example is Angry Birds. The developers for AB said they had no interest in releasing an Android version of the game, guess what, they back peddled and they're working on bringing the game to Android.
So, while the author of the article is mostly right, they're missing the bigger picture.

"Nielsen is once again trudging out a survey saying Android outsold iPhone and BlackBerry in the US."
@M Koby: Maybe if the survey would have made the comparison between Android and iOS then I would agree with your remarks. RR was just saying that people who come up with these surveys either don't know what they are talking about or don't know how to formulate a comparison between two products. I'm sure that if iOS was available on more cellphone platforms--we wouldn't be sitting here talking about it. We'll have to see if Google comes out with their own phone--then we can talk about Android Phone vs iphone.

Oh, please...you are being childish. Of course this is a valid comparison. If you have to be pedantic about it, the data actually measures sales of phones by OS they run. It is not the only way to break down the data, but it is one perfectly reasonable way to do it, particularly in that a large segment of consumers do look at OS as one factor for personal electronic devices.
The data show that sales of phones powered by the BlackberryOS are declining, sales of phones powered by iOS are stable, and sales of phones powered by Android are increasing in the US. Period. So what if there are 14 Blackberries, 17 Android phones, and 2 iPhones? So what if the BBs and Android models are available on multiple carriers in the US, and the iPhone is hitched to AT&T? These conditions are both by Apple's choice, and, if you want to wave platitudes about difference in business models, that is Apple's business model. If the consequence of those choices of simplicity and exclusivity are lower market trends for iOS phones than a competitor's platform, that is the reality, and it is entirely fair to bring analysis to bear on those choices and consquences.
Gruber even points out that the numbers look different in countries where the iPhone is not carrier locked, suggesting that Apple's relatively flat growth rate might have a self-inflicted cause -- something Apple could "fix," if they believe it is a problem worth fixing. That is what analysts do -- take a look at the data, and ferret out differences and new questions. Bleating about the way the data was sliced, and insisting that your metric (single phone SKU to single phone SKU) is the one true way to examine all data, is beneath you. Although, the way you insist on misappropriating the term "fork" to mislead, perhaps it is not. But it should be.

@Michael: If we're looking at developers, then iOS includes iPod touch and iPad and is a bigger target than just iPhone. People who want an iOS device don't have to get a phone, including kids, and that's something that would need to be factored in.
@Dev: All great points, it's almost entirely Apple's making that the situation is what it is. Outside the US isn't entirely fair either as Android lacks Verizon Droid-style branding, Google Voice, and has been slow in rolling out paid apps making the platform less compelling than it in the US.

Every time Rene post up this type of defensive rhetoric it reminds me of Doogie Howser touching the brain bug at the end of Starship Troopers. "It's Afraid! It's Afraid!"

@Michael Thank you!!! Yes Android is a platform and not a "phone" What Nielsen obviously means is, the Android platform is outselling the iPhone (iOS) Platform.
"Andoid is free you cant buy it" - This is false. Android is Open Source. This neither means free nor "you cant buy it". Please learn the difference noob.

Android OS selling more phones than IPhone OS. Not Android selling more than IOS (that's a platform available on both phones and non-phones).
Allow me to repeat, across all carriers and telephonic devices, android is outselling Iphone.

Great points but you're mingling over semantics.
Android based phones vs iPhone. Yes, they say Android vs iPhone but they don't mean the OS vs the hardware. They'd be dumb to challenge hardware w/ software and vice versa.

For whatever reasons- networks, form factors... Android is currently a more popular OS than IOS based on the number of new handsets running each OS. Simple and to the point.
There are more iPhones than any other (two) phone models in use today.

Good lord I canNOT stand Rene. Sad sad post here TiPb. I think There should be a rule for this website that states all authors must contribute equally. So instead of Rene writing 90% of all posts on here and everyone else writes a few, we can have every author write the same amount. Just a suggestion

my next phone is an iphone but bottom line is there's more phones selling with android then there are phones selling with apple's os.

O.K. - how about this - phones with Android OS are outselling both BB OS and iPhone OS.......geez a little competition and you act like the sky is falling!

I couldn't care less. As long as iPhones are selling well, and continue to improve, I'm happy. Competition is good, but this "who's number one" stuff is silly. In fact, I usually get better value and better customer service from the number two vendor. Verizon is the number one carrier, and I sure don't want their products or services.

Last time I checked the report said Android outsells iOS ...
Rene stop acting DUMB .. you know exactly that the report is talking about Operating system...

So if that is the case, then we need to throw all the iPads that are selling millions per month as well as all the iPod Touches too.

I love my iPhone and fully expect that my next phone will be an iPhone 6, but Dev makes a really good point. Whereas I'm sure iOS and Android will continue to be updated so that neither has a real material advantage over the other feature and performance wise, an app developer is going to make decisions based on which platform offers him/her the most potential customers. In two years when I'm deciding on the newest iPhone and a similar quality Android driven phone, it could very well come down to which offers me the largest number and widest variety of quality apps - and I'm probably fairly representative of the average smart phone consumer. I hope it will be common practice for almost every app to come in both flavors, but if 4 or 5+ Android devices are sold for each iOS device, it could be a real issue for Apple.

Do I really care? No.
Do I plan to buy an "Android phone"? No.
Does this kind of news attract more eyeballs? ...

AGAIN: the number of phones (like devices in general when you count tablets, TVs, fridges, whatever) with Android on them will absolutely dwarf the number of devices with iOS on them (because only Apple makes them and staunchly limits them).
Android is fantastic. Gingerbread will be even better. None of this is anti-Android. This is purely anti poorly segmented market surveys.

It's not though. I understand what you're trying to say, but I have to agree with the other guys and say that you're wrong on this one.
Btw, I don't think you're a poor writer, as others have said, just taking this situation wrong.

P.S. I seriously doubt they are comparing every single android device out there (tablet, fridge, or whatever else you just referenced) to JUST the iPhone. If you want to look at it like that, doesn't apple have iOS on 4ish devices now?

So you're ranting over semantics? You're upset they said iPhone instead of iOS? It was based on smartphone sales so Android being on any other device would effect the numbers plus Apple has also been expanding the devices that iOS is running on just like Android is expanding beyond smartphones. This was a rather pointless rant imo.

Finally someone understands! I mean seriously Android may outsell, but that is because it's ran on like 20 phones. The iPhone is one phone which sells damn well near as many as the entire Android platform. Now if they did a survey on how many iOS devices were sold compared to Android, which would win?

you iPhone n00bs are hilarious. Can't give in to the fact that android is picking up speed at your expense

It's fun on the TIPB when the Android folks come, it amazes me they come to iPhone sites, I'm never on Android sites, 'cuz I don't own a droid....silly people, they're all just phones kids, take a deep breathe

Android users don't buy apps, that could be more of a factor for developed than overall customers... Despite the fact Android may sell me, if it wasn't for Apple - we'd be out of business, Android simply doesn't pull in the cash...

@Rene .. the studies are clearly talking about the IOS platform not the Iphone.. stop it .. you're embarrassing yourself

@Rene it's not a poor survey. it's a about phones.
The truth is a hell of a lot of people don't care in the slightest about ios devices in general, or tablets. Hell i'm not buying a tablet. The survey is about growth of smartphone platforms. I like the iphone. i own three ipods (one kinda brokent though), my next phone will be an iphone. if i cared about tablets i'd get an ipad. but i also run window pcs.TAndroid is perfectly usable. the fanboy stuff is just childish.
read the study. it clearly says among smarphone platforms. sorry it's not android's fault apple only releases one phone on one carrier. hell if it expanded in the states it may stop losing market share. maybe. but the visceral reaction to any stat that says android is doing better then the iphone platform is so childish. There is no need to be insecure. Just like what you like.

"According to August data from The Nielsen Company, Android is now the most popular operating system among people who bought a smartphone in the past six months, while Blackberry RIM and Apple iOS are in a statistical dead heat for second place among recent acquirers."
iOS smartphones versus Android OS smartphones. I'm trying to see Rene's point, but this survey is so clear that it's impossible to understand his argument.

stop using the word "fork" ... even if you eventually think you've learned how to use it, don't even try.

I think Rene is right and naturally because of there being a dozen+ Android phones it's going to outsell the iPhone. Where's the data with the iPod Touch factored in, it's the same platform. I know a good number of people now who have Android phones and an iPod Touch so Apple is still making out because they can't give up their iPod and don't want to switch to AT&T.

I live in Ontario Canada and feel like this just doesn't apply here when it comes to phones. The android platform has yet to really catch on here, the majority of smart phone users I know use a blackberry or i phone. Curious if this is also the case in another countries other than the U.S.A

And once again, Rene, you're twisting this to your own ends too. I just read that article: it says "platform", not "phone manufacturer". Platform = OS. It also says "smartphones", not PMPs. A lot of media outlets think iphone = iOS as it's the only smartphone platform Apple allows iOS on.
So this Nielson article is correct. And is sounds like those hard-core Apple fans are becoming sore losers because their vaunted phone isn't as all powerful as they think.
Then again, since when did this matter to you guys? I've always heard from it's quality, not quantity, that mattered.

@Joost: Nokia has always outsold iPhone by those standards, so what's the big deal if I put it in context and complain that it's a protein to apple's comparison?
I love Android too. It's not a zero-sum gain. The market is growing so fast and we have so much choice it's a great time to be a consumer. "Android-based Smartphones" certainly can outsell "iOS-based Smartphones" if that's the segmentation you want to do. Is that a valuable segmentation? We could discuss that. Is the title Android outsells iPhone accurate? Nope.

With all due respect, because I very much appreciate this blog and most of Rene's writings, this article is just dumb. Nielson's report is valid and makes perfect sense to me as a reader, where this article is just insulting. It's easy to understand that the report is comparing phones running Android to the only phone running iOs, which is totally fair to say Android phones verses the iPhone. This article just seems like you're being WAY oversensitive and nit-picky over a fairly presented finding.
Android phones CAN outsell iPhones, or "iOS phones" if you want to be like that. It's a matter of wording, not facts. It just sounds dumb in your effort for to try to make someone else sound dumb, as you try to get people to believe that a legitimate report is invalid.
Thanks for the work you guys do! It is appreciated. This one just really bugged me!

With all due respect, this post is just false. While the literal term "android" refers to the OS, and "iPhone" refers to hardware, the connotation is not used this way. "Android" has come to mean "Android phones" to the average consumer. Most people I know call their phone an android, not a droid, or incredible, or what have you. Let's make an analogy mac:pc::iphone:android. If you can say that PCs outsell Macs, you can say that Android outsells iPhone.
So yes, "android" outsells iPhone and Blackberry in the US, and personally, I think you need to cool it with this debate. This article is ENTIRELY misleading to the average consumer. Personally, and respectfully, articles like this just disgust me, and it makes tipb come off as a sore loser. This again, is my opinion, and take it however you wish. Just chalk up congrats to the android platform once in a while. And don't say I'm biased because my phone is a Palm Pre Plus, but I follow all of these sites regularly.

Actually people buy Android phones not because of the OS but because of the phone designs. You can say there are more Android phones in the market than iPhones but if you compare phone makers running Android OS's and Apple, the iphone is still in the lead among all the phone brands running either Android or iOS.
Also if you want to compare Android vs iOS, then you'll also have to include iPhones, and iPod Touches because both are running on iOS.

Doesn't this report only cover one month of IPhone 4 sales. We all know iPhone sales decline at least a couple of months prior to a new iPhone release.
I see RR's point but I would also agree that this is Apples fault. They could have released the IPhone on another network by now.
I truly believe most consumers who buy an Android device settle because the Iphone is not available on their network, again a problem Apple could solve.
I for one do not like the Android platform for a few reasons, so them being the king of the doesn't matter to me. However I can see why a lot of people do like it. This competition can only mean good things for the consumer.

Interesting post, especially considering I converted 3 ihone 4 users today by showcasing my Droid X. Incomparable... Ihone is great for those that need it simple, but can't touch the power and reach of Android.

And rather that trying to insult the statistics, which are correct, with a mad tantrum, let's look at them two ways.
1: Realistically
In terms of phones, it's perfectly reasonable to compare number of Android phones to iPhones. Why? Developers need to figure out what to develop for. Should I develop for the iPhone, should I develop for a range of Android style phones, or both? The best developers see both right now, based on the numbers, they are too close business wise to matter. However lots of tech media like to point out winners and losers, so the real answer to this is "yes it's important, but not that important yet because Apple is making a ton of money and has a huge number of apps, while Google is creating a bunch of potential eyeballs for ads, it's core money making business" Neither appears to be a loser to me, and I can't wait until Summer sales figures come out to see if things have changed. You also have to realize that iOS is a platform running multiple devices. So the argument that iOS=iPhone is not entirely true. And that brings me to my other point.
2 see things as Steve does
One thing to note is that Steve likes to point out iOS as a platform. And it powers the iPhone... and the iPod and the iPad!!! If you don't like the lock in that the iPhone gives you with AT+T, you have two other options. With those options, you have more eyeballs for apps than all the android phones combined. Steve doesn't care that Android is outpacing the iPhone because Steve is outpacing everyone with iOS devices! All these developers are pumping out apps and people are downloading them, and they are remarkably stable compared to Android apps.
Can I have Rene's job now? Apparently Troy, Matt, and I can provide some useful analysis while all Rene can do is pitch an immature fit. I like the iPhone but c'mon, let's man up admit what the facts are in front of us, already.

I agree with those commenters who say that most people use shorthand when referring to these devices or operating systems. Within that context, the article can have merit.
I also agree wih Rene that such imprecise statements are bothersome. It muddies the waters of debate and discussion.

gosh, this post is quite dumb. Apple chose not to license their iOS, it is not Android's fault. If it makes you feel any better, say, Android overtakes iOS. At the end of the day, the fact that Android overtakes iPhone is a very relevant news to me as developer.

First of all I love Apple! I have a Macbook Pro, my kids have ipads and we are thinking of adding a iMac to the computers we have. That said, if Apple had launched the iphone 4 without antenna and sensor issues, I would not have a captivate now. I liked it so much I got my wife a Vibrant on TMO. Android will overtake and far exceed iOS in sales probably by mid to end of 2011. They have too much momentum and lots more phones and improvements coming. Competition is healthy! Apple should not get defensive on volume sold. They should just focus on rolling out quality products!

@deviladv: if you focus on developers needing to know platform size, then you need to count iPod touch and iPad, both of which have been monstrous hits and make iOS a huge target.
@Matt: I don't think most consumers know what an Android phone is, only geeks. A soccer mom or dad on Verizon "knows" Droid. Android as a brand suffers from decoupled hardware/software/carrier branding.

who cares. you realize not everyone is gonna look at it as ios right? to most people its just iphone. so when they say that android outsold iphone, yea theres a incorrectness to that statement, to those who know and care to know about it. but to the majority of people they get the point.
im a apple fan. i dont like android by any means. but seeing articles like this makes people look like...well fan boys...and while there is nothing wrong with that, when your whining about something like this, there is. get over it. enjoy your phone. who cares what outsold what, dont take it personal, not your place to.

And if Apple gave away iOS...I doubt it'd be the same growth. Why?
You can't do what you want with iOS.
It'd be the same on every phone no matter the manufacturer...so therefore there'd be on difference between a Sony iOS device and a HTC iOS device...except for the name.
I'm so tired of hearing the "choice" being used as a clutch.
Blackberry offers choice...and iPhone and Android beat them.
WinMo was all about 3rd party makers...and they failed the worst!
So all that's left to be said is people are liking the phones and are buying it because of that.
Whether or not they are clarifying "phone or OS" is a moot point.
Android itself is being bought more than any other OS as of right now.
Will that change once iPhone and iOS untethers itself from the grips of one carrier...nobody knows.
But until that day...facts are facts. Deal with it.

Coming from someone who runs the iPhone 2G on T-Mo, and has never used an Android phone...stop posting the same ridiculous article. Your argument is garbage for anyone who doesn't read every word as an exact literal meaning.
If Android continues to outsell iPhone, soon more people will be using Android phones than iPhones. That is the only important point from the data, not some silly semantic discussion.
From a dev perspective, if you're looking at Android vs iOS, yes you should take into account iPod Touch and iPad numbers, but also Android based tablets (and fridges, in-car systems, whatever else is coming).
The only valid point Rene made is that iPhone is currently tied to one carrier, so is at a disadvantage now. Yes, this is true, and the numbers would/will be different if/when it is available on other carriers (T-Mo first please). But, the FACT is that currently, as it stands, Android IS outselling iPhone.

Wow, is there no other Iphone news to report other then to refute claims that android is leading in ratings. First, could you be more lame? Second, any Iphone fool that even tried an android based phone (don’t want the writer of the article to get pissy) and realize what true multi-tasking alone is, you would use your Iphone for games and for music and use your android phone for everything else. You guys just got a 5mp camera, and it was innovative however all of us on the higher end android phones already had it. You have facetime; do I really have to go into that? Apple invented multitasking, that has been around for years. When you unbrand your loyalty and realize that there are truly better phones out there in the market place for the same amount of money you guys are paying to upgrade your phone every year to get the new and revolutionary device that apple vomits out!!! If all of this is not bad enough you’re tied to AT&T, AT&T which is up there with Sprint! So Iphone folk’s readers and writer alike, grow the hell up. When it boils down to it android can give you more bang for you buck. Thou look who I am talking to, you morons upgrade your phones every year to get the phone that is going to change it all again.. LMAO.

Anthony shut your damn mouth. No one cares about android. Why do android fanboys need to bash the iPhone? Perhaps envy? Android is pos period.

Apple=innovation and birder like android always copy. How can you hate on apple? When it starts everything!!!!!

@Rene Ritchie or anybody?has IOS4.X sales outnumbered the android 2.X? and what about plain ios outnumbering android?

Suck it nice and slow, iPhone! Don't use any teeth, though... You've been taking it up the ass all this year so what's a few more months of 2010 for the win!

Hey Apple fanboys! When you're not giving Steve Blow Jobs, take a trip back to reality and realize you've been owned, pawned and humiliated!

To echo many other comments... And BTW I have an iPhone 4......
I think most people are intelligent enough to interpret this as, "more phones were sold that run Android OS than those that run iOS."
Yes, I realize that iOS is only available on one handset and Android is on many which is why the numbers are the way they are. Let's not waste our time speculating what would be if the iPhone was available here or there - it's a pointless argument.
Please don't tell me you bought your phone because "everyone else has one" or it "sold more." Just enjoy your phone and get over it.

Is Android an OS? YES Is iPhone an OS? YES
Will having Verizon selling iPhones increase their sales foot print... the jury is still out on that.

As i have statrd before. Renee is such an apple spin master its pathetic. He does nothing but twist real facts with his own distorted truth.

Spin it reee spin it. Your whole debate here is based on your one sided view. Its just flat out pathetic how you are trying to twist words and deceive the public with biased lies.

Rene, posts like this really do you no favours. However it was intended, it comes accross like a desparate fanboy trying to defend his brand. It's like they need the help...

Well it's easy to see which phones are used by who posts replies. I can tell EVERYONE with absolute certainty that "Android" SUCKS big time compared to an Iphone. I have to hook both of them up to cars all the time for BT/BT Audio/Contacts and every droid phone is a crappy complicated experience with a crappy user interface that frustrates the hell out of me. Go buy an iPhone and make my life easier. Thanks.

haha trolls.
why do you guys come to this site again? its funny how everyone throws fits over phones...their cell phones guys. everyone has their preferences....everyone has their opinion...you guys can go round and round battling and comparing phones..each phone as features better than the other. why dont you people grow up, stick to websites that pertain to products you like, and stop trolling others. do you guys have no other life besides this?
this goes for everyone. the iphone isnt god and neither are android devices. not winmo not blackberry, nothing. and renee quit whining about the same old reports.

lol love how unbelievably biased this article is. So obvious and apparent to any free thinker, but not to an Apple fan boy. Here's the point in contradiction:
Argument 1:
You cannot fairly compare Android with iPhone because Android is a software, and iPhone is a hardware.
Argument 2:
However, you CAN fairly compare Android with iPhone if iPhone offered more of that hardware on multiple carriers. (your John Gruber quote paraphrased)
Don't see the contradiction? Then you're either a biased fanboy or simply not intelligent enough, there really is no other possible reason. At any rate, the conversation has ended because whatever you would say in response has absolutely no bearing on it since you would simply be trying to defend an indefensible position.
If you really wanna be picky, when people say Android is outselling the iPhone, they are simply paraphrasing that Android platform based phones are outselling iOS based phones. That anyone with a sense of any objectivity would never deny to be false.

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